The Arab world's most powerful and professional military overthrows the government of the region's largest and most prestigious country, after that nation's first-ever democratic election . . . and Washington yawns. But the sight of the American president grabbing his golf clubs and the secretary of state heading off for a sail on the yacht is as close to a loud public "atta-boy" this coup-less event can be given. Talk of shades of black.
Outside of the partisans, feelings are mixed and complicated. Free and democratic elections don't always yield desirable results: Witness the National Socialists in Germany or Hamas in the Palestinian Gaza. The elections were fair; the results to many were, shall we say, problematic.
Surely undoing a fair election has serious ramifications. Elections aren't supposed to have mulligans. What happened last week in Egypt may signal to those with extremely violent radical agendas that if they play by the peaceful and political rules -- which the world encourages -- they will nevertheless not be permitted to win in the long run.
Alternatively, it may also validate those who so wish to believe that the Arab world "is just not ready for democracy."
Had the Morsi government somehow gained Western-style civilian control of the military after it proved instrumental in deposing long-time strongman Hosni Mubarak, indications are that Egypt would have ethnically cleansed itself of the Coptic Christians, reneged on its pledge of inclusivity, become a non-democratic and troublesome theocracy, terrorized its own people and proved to be an unstable threat to the region.
One Iran in the neighborhood is more than enough.
There is little doubt that Egypt's President Morsi ineptly overplayed his hand and accelerated his agenda. But the longer he remained, the more entrenched he would have become.
So what's any secular, self-respecting, nationalistic, turf-conscious, perk-laden, privileged, powerful military to do? Act in the interests of the nation and its people, of course.
As in most things, timing being everything, Egypt's only efficient institution moved quickly to take advantage of the fact that millions of citizens (many who might not have voted), were taking to the streets to demand the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood government. The military acted to maintain order and accommodate the will of the people.
Now, despite there being many conflicting and passionate views on this evolving occurrence, there is consensus that the military is Egypt's most reliable and consistent player. Though not ideal, it has been steady in helping maintain regional peace, security and integrity of agreements. Fifteen billion dollars in U.S. gratitude over the last decade is a testimony to that. The fact that it stood 30,000 troops up with us in the Gulf War against Saddam Hussein further testifies.
So now we raise an eyebrow when the military relatively surgically helps remove an early identified malignancy. Were there not cheers when it helped remove one in its late stages?
It's complicated. In the real and soiled world, we don't always get ideal situations. Your views on the death penalty notwithstanding, if they execute the wrong terrible mass murderer, do you miss him?
Gary Ackerman is a former Democratic congressman representing New York's 5th district.