New Wave of Violence in Egypt with Michael Hanna: VICE Podcast 012

New Wave of Violence in Egypt with Michael Hanna: VICE Podcast 012

Reihan Salam, and this is the VICE Podcast. Today I’m joined by Michael
Wahid Hanna, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and a
leading expert on Egypt and the Middle East. Michael, thank you very
much for joining me. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: Thanks
for having me. REIHAN SALAM: So, ever since
the collapse of Hosni Mubarak’s regime in 2011, Egypt
has been in pretty much a nonstop unfolding political
crisis that has recently reached a boiling point. Yet I wonder how is that we
got to this impasse in the first place? So Mubarak had been in
power for 30 years. And of course, he had
been a friend and ally the United States. And yet, the US and other
Western powers seemed to distance themselves from him. So set the stage a little
bit for what’s happened in 2011 and since. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: Well prior
to the uprising, lots had taken place to seed
the environment for it to take place. It didn’t come out of nowhere. I think the last 10 years, in
particular, of the Mubarak era were a time of drift
and stagnation. The problems of the country
were becoming more acute– not just chronic. And so much of the energy and
focus of political life was centered on the question
of succession. Mubarak was old. There were rumors
of ill health. And that whole time, obviously,
there was a very choreographed set of steps being
orchestrated to ensure Gamal Mubarak, his son,
as his successor. Obviously something quite
anathema to any sort of republican model
of government. And so much attention and focus
and uncertainty was invested in this question
of succession. And the country, frankly,
was adrift. It had been poorly managed,
obviously, for really 60 years, going back to the
military coup by Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1952 along
with the free officers. But those problems that had
built up over time really intensified in that last decade,
and we saw green shoots of opposition. Opposition in ways
and in forms that we’d never seen before. At the time, we thought
these were isolated. But clearly they were breaking
down taboos and normalizing notions of protests that had
not had a rootedness in Egyptian society. REIHAN SALAM: Was that partly
because the Mubarak regime thought, let’s allow some
kind of escape valve? Let’s allow some of
the pressure to– MICHAEL WAHID HANNA:
Absolutely. This is particularly clear
in the case of the press. So as opposed to a Baathist
state like Syria or Iraq or even Qaddafi’s Libya, Egypt
wasn’t a totalitarian society. It was an authoritarian
society. But within bounds, there was
discussion and limited and controlled dissent. At the time, clearly, in the
2000s when this became more mainstream and you saw
notionally oppositional press come up, clearly there was a
sense within the regime that this was something like
a safety valve. To have a controlled opposition
tamed with some real discussion and debate,
but with certain issues– red lines and taboos. President’s health– really succession for many
years was a red line. The military’s economic
interests– these were things that were not able to be fully discussed. So it was a controlled but
semi-free press that was intended as a safety valve,
but obviously grew up into something much more,
eventually. REIHAN SALAM: A very good
friend of mine made an observation– has spent a fair bit
of time in Egypt– about how if you travel into
middle Egypt and you get off a train, if you wander
sufficiently far from the train station, what you’re doing
is you’re leaving the zone of state authority into
a zone that is, in a sense, very tribal– in which you don’t have what we
would think of as a kind of modern state, but rather you
have a series of agreements between the modern state that
is Cairo-centered– that’s centered in the big
cities, and that actually is engaged in a kind of
accommodation with the village life that is not fully touched
by urbanization, modernization, and
what have you. Do you think that that’s a
fair characterization? That Egypt is a society that, in
a way, is only incompletely modernized? MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: I
think that’s right. And I think there is a
geographic variation. I mean, part of that
is simply neglect. upper Egypt– the South– has been neglected. There has been Cairo-centrism. And I think it was no surprise
that when there was a low-level insurgency in the
’90s, a lot of the violence was focused in upper Egypt. Whatever societal trends exist
in a sort of negative sense– more broadly in Egypt, are
exacerbated and more pronounced in upper Egypt. REIHAN SALAM: Got it. So it’s basically like, OK, we
have this government here. We control the ports. We control various resources
to finance our military and our state more broadly. And then in these other areas,
hey, we’re not going to mess with you. We’re also not going to provide
you with much in the way of services, and
what have you. But you still have this
traditional authority that is very entrenched in
these places. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: Yeah. I mean part of the dysfunction
in governance in Egypt– and really in the Arab
world more broadly– is the over-centralization of
authority, which has really distorting effects for
administration more broadly in the country. And that’s had a very negative
impact on how upper Egypt was administered. REIHAN SALAM: And I imagine it
also to some degree undermines the legitimacy of the state. Because if it looks as though
you have the state in Cairo that seems to be benefiting
primarily members of the military and members of the
elite, and I’m not here in upper Egypt, the state doesn’t
touch my life by providing me with services, or
what have you. So then you might look to
traditional authority rather than to the government
of Cairo. Is that a fair– MICHAEL WAHID HANNA:
It’s both. I mean, it’s not Afghanistan
where the central government doesn’t even manifest
itself in any way. And so it’s not that extreme. And of course, these
arrangements were fairly stable for decades. REIHAN SALAM: It’s not longer. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: Yeah, but
as the modern state has grown up, this system has managed
to be fairly stable. Turbulence, obviously– but until you get to 2011– manageable. Obviously things changed
dramatically in 2011, and obviously we talked about a
lot leading up to that. But this sort of repressive
stability worked, for better or worse– mostly for worse– but worked for decades. REIHAN SALAM: So we come up to
2011, and you have Mubarak who had been in power
for 30 years. And of course you had this
very close working relationship with the
United States. And the general characterization
is that part of this flows from the fact
that he’d signed a peace treaty with Israel. And so that’s one key reason to
kind of want to keep this person in power. Another reason is that perhaps
Mubarak could say, it’s either me or the deluge. If it’s not me, then you have
these Islamist elements that might come to power, and
that obviously was a tremendous deterrent. Yet something changed. Something in 2011 changed in
which the US and other Western countries– other outsiders– decided, you know what, this
repressive stability is not the best bet any longer. What do you think
it was that– MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: Well, I
mean, it was the weight of circumstance. I mean, whether we were going
to say Mubarak must go or Mubarak must stay,
or what have you. Egyptian society wasn’t
waiting for us to give that signal. They were interested in what
the international community had to say. But point of fact, the United
States was actually just recognizing reality. Now it’s remarkable how
quickly that came. Essentially, I think it’s six
days into the uprising in 2011, we see the first
market shift. And if you go back to 1979 and
the Iranian Revolution– obviously a much more protracted
affair that lasted months and months– but the United States took a
very long time to reorient its policy toward the Shah. REIHAN SALAM: So this must– MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: And
in Egypt’s case– REIHAN SALAM: Yeah. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: –it
really happened. And [INAUDIBLE]. At the time there were people
banging the table saying, you have to do this quicker. But it happened very fast. REIHAN SALAM: And you think this
was an attempt to learn the lessons of history? This was an attempt to not
repeat the mistakes of 1979? MICHAEL WAHID HANNA:
Well I think– I don’t know that it was
that well-thought out. I think events were happening
at a much faster pace. And I think they correctly
analyzed that Mubarak was done for. I mean, that was the
central takeaway at that point in time. And I think it was right– that he was no longer a viable
person to lead the country. And in fact, as opposed to
being the manager of repressive stability, that
his very presence was now destabilizing. And I think that was an
important and central insight. REIHAN SALAM: There’s a reason
why when you have an uprising in some peripheral society,
or what is seen as a– like Tunisia– it’s a big deal. But when it happens in Cairo,
suddenly that is going to be very threatening. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA:
Absolutely. Well I mean, Egypt
is the largest country in the Arab world. And people, I think, do realize
that if something major happens in Egypt, it’s
going to have reverberations and spillover elsewhere. REIHAN SALAM: So one reason
the Muslim Brotherhood has such a powerful influence is
that it also created a kind of social service network
in the country. Tell us a bit about that. How extensive was it and how
much does it still matter? MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: Well
it’s interesting. The Muslim Brotherhood as an
organization isn’t that big. There aren’t that many
members– right? It’s 150,000– REIHAN SALAM: I’ve heard
about 250,000. That’s– MICHAEL WAHID HANNA:
–about 300,000. And in many ways, it has a
Leninist sense of itself as a vanguard party. And of course, that has created suspicions in Egyptian society. Because essentially they’re
a secret society– separate, apart. They talk about– REIHAN SALAM: Some describe it
as a cultish organization. You hear about initiation
–in stages. REIHAN SALAM: –from three
to eight years. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: And of
course, some of the people to talk about it in that
fashion are Salafis. So the more rigid hard-line
Islamists who see this as a sort of perversion that puts
organization and the Muslim Brotherhood ahead of
Islam, I’m saying. But so they are set apart. They talk about themselves as
encouraging intermarriage among the Muslim Brotherhood. And yet, they’ve also
engaged in outreach. They have been a provider of
social services and for many in the opposition to the Muslim
Brotherhood, this is seen as somehow buying votes
and has been resented. And of course, there is
an element to that. But of course, this
organization is– it’s over 80 years old. It is deeply rooted in
society at a local– very granular level. And part of their activity
is geared towards social services. That’s a longstanding activity
of the Brothers. REIHAN SALAM: So it’s an
organization with a very deep sense of its own history. I mean, when you have an
initiation process of three to eight years, I’m sure that every
member is aware of the martyrs of their organization. And they’re very– even if
you’re a member who’s 30 years old, you’re going to be keenly
aware of what had happened in the ’50s, and the repression
of the organization. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA:
Absolutely. REIHAN SALAM: So they have
their counter-history– MICHAEL WAHID HANNA:
Absolutely. REIHAN SALAM: –of
Egyptian life. Now when you describe them as
a Leninist organization– when you think of Leninist
political parties, they have a vision of where they
want to get. They have a vision of what
their utopia looks like. And so I wonder for the
Muslim Brotherhood– what is your sense of what
their utopia looks like? The end-goal they’re trying
to get to through their political activism– through their charitable
endeavors– and what have you. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: Well, they
have a very fuzzy notion themselves. It’s– for a long time, it’s
been a bottom-up process of the Islamization of society. Now interestingly enough, this
has already been happening with or without the Brothers. Egyptian society looks far
different in the penetration of Islam into all facets
of public life– looks quite different than where
Egypt was 50 years ago. So the country has changed. But they still maintain
this notion of Islamization of society. They see themselves as the
vanguard party that can do this and will lead society
in this direction. The specifics are more difficult
to pinpoint. For a long time, the
primary slogan of– REIHAN SALAM: And by the way,
they want to do this not just through laws, but also through
a kind of inner-cultural transformation, as well, MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: Sure. REIHAN SALAM: –and promoting
that through– well OK. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: And they’re
a social organization. They’re a [INAUDIBLE] organization. They have these social
obligations that they believe they have to fulfill in terms
of raising religious consciousness within society. So for many years, it’s been a
very patient, long game that was essentially bottom-up. Everything changes after 2011. It’s had a really profound
impact on decision making within the Brothers. REIHAN SALAM: So the Muslim
Brotherhood seems to have been relatively well-situated. So you have this enormous
uprising, and it seems as though the Brotherhood was not
actually spearheading this initial wave of resistance
to Mubarak. But as that wave of resistance
continued to build, as it became clear that the United
States was going to abandon the Mubarak regime, then you
have this large, disciplined organization that has very
deep reach in Egyptian society, and they’re on the
playing field, and so it seems like they’re likely to have a
lot of influence– right? MICHAEL WAHID HANNA:
No, that’s right. I mean, they were for many
years the most coherent opposition force to the
Mubarak regime. They– REIHAN SALAM: And their long
sense of history probably led them to think, let’s wait
and see how this goes– MICHAEL WAHID HANNA:
Yeah, I mean– REIHAN SALAM: –before we– MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: They’re
not a revolutionary party. And that’s part of their great
downfall in power is that they’re not committed to broad, sweeping change and reform. And you see this tension between
the reformist class of activists that led Tahrir in its
initial incarnation, and the Brother. This has been a tension that
has been persistent. But the Brothers– they’re not revolutionary
actors. And that tension really broke
apart whatever ephemeral solidarity existed. REIHAN SALAM: Except the
revolutionary actors. Because of what you said about
how secular left-wing groups, et cetera, had been
so repressed during this long era. They didn’t necessarily have
disciplined organizations with a long sense of history that
were very capable of taking advantage of this
new environment. Is that a– MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: No, no. That’s right. And obviously when you get to
that first set of elections in the post-Mubarak era– for me, in many ways, they
are the last vestiges. The last– as opposed to being the first
election of a new era. They represent for me the last
elections of the Mubarak era. It’s what remains from
the wreckage. And of course, out of that
wreckage the Brothers are organized, they’re funded. They have a nationwide
organizational infrastructure. They have huge organizational
advantages that obviously were to their advantage in that
first set of elections– the first referendum and the
parliamentary elections and then the presidential election
that followed. And some of our expectations
for the opposition and our frustration across the board,
whether it be the analytical or diplomatic community, I think
comes out of a sense of unrealistic expectations about
what they could possibly do– starting from scratch
in many cases– when up against what
is a sort of– at that time, an organizational
juggernaut. Something that exists already. REIHAN SALAM: When you think
about how the overthrow of Mubarak unfolded– I mean, it really depended
on the cooperation of the military insofar as it’s a
conscripted military, so there’s a sense that many of
them do not want to shoot on fellow Egyptians. So it does seem that playing
that in a very subtle, careful way– not necessarily alienating
the military. Was that true of all of
the opposition forces? Or was that more true the
Brotherhood than others? MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: Well,
I mean, in many ways the Brothers have had an
antagonistic relationship with the military going back to the
repression of the Nasserist era and thereafter and
have seen themselves as potential rivals. I mean, there are sectors within
the military and the security establishment more
broadly that are rabidly anti-Muslim Brotherhood. So there’s a lot of resistance
to the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islam more generally
within the security sector. At the time of the initial
Tahrir uprising in 2011– before the very disastrous
tenure of the military and interim power– they were greeted incredibly
normally on the streets by all the actors that had come
together to form that popular uprising. They were different
than the police. They weren’t part of domestic
oppression. The Ministry of Interior,
State Security Investigations– these were the repressive
apparatuses of the state that had direct daily interface
with people. The military was behind the
curtain, behind the scenes, had only been deployed
to the streets twice. 1977– what has been called since
is the Bread Riots– and 1986 when there
were riots by the Central Security Forces. REIHAN SALAM: So it was a
national institution that was, in a sense, above the fray. A national institution that
was part of Egypt’s nationalists project. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA:
great deal of pride– REIHAN SALAM: So a
lot of prestige. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA:
unsullied reputation. Part of that was unjustified. I mean, this is an institution
that has economic privileges, that is engaged in corrupt
practices– their future wasn’t tethered
to Mubarak. It wasn’t tethered to the
National Democrat Party. Their legitimacy was more
broadly rooted. And while they weren’t looking
to oust Mubarak, they saw a way forward that it was but
could potentially protect their interests and restore
stability that wasn’t necessarily tied to their
defense of the president. REIHAN SALAM: So this leads
us to what some are calling the coup. So Mubarak is overthrown, you
have a series of elections, and then Mohamed Morsi, a guy
who was not tremendously well-known– someone who had been in
prison for a very long period of time– is elected president by what
appears to be a 52% margin. It seems like a reasonably
free and fair election. And when he comes into power,
the military acquiesces despite some of these tensions–
you know, the Brotherhood and the military
overtime, they acquiesce. But then it seems that a
lot of tension builds. And then it seems that Morsi
takes a variety of steps that the military does not like. It seems that there is an
implicit agreement. Like hey, we’re going
to work together. And then it seems that Morsi
seems to change that agreement after the fact. And then lo and behold, he gets
removed by the military. Now there’s a lot to fill in
there, but because on one level you could say, well gosh,
this guy was elected. And then it seems that we’re
really undermining what is a nascent, democratic political
process by throwing this guy out of office. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA:
Yeah, I mean– there’s a lot to unpack there,
but none of this was inevitable, I don’t think. There’s a leadership change that
happens in the military. A year ago on the heels of the
presidential election– and it’s this second tier of
military leadership had been kept from promotion for many
years because of this stagnant class of very octogenarians
within the military that had stymied promotion, stymied
innovation. And people within military– I think many sectors blamed them
for the disaster that was the interim period of rule from
the fall of Mubarak until the election of Morsi. And so this second tier of
leadership comes to the fore– a General Sisi, a very young
man, relatively speaking, within the military– late ’50s. Comes to lead the defense
ministry and wants to assume a more subtle, behind the scenes
role and wants to forge a working relationship
with the Brothers. They begin to do so. There’s obviously a quid pro quo
involved here, and this is most evidently be seen in the
constitution, which really formalizes all of the privileges
and autonomy and immunity that surrounded the
military but had been unstated is enshrined in the
constitutional document. And so the military,
in may ways– REIHAN SALAM: So in a way,
that’s a step forward. There’s more transparency,
there’s more rule of law– MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: Well , in
many ways what it did was enshrine a lack of
transparency. And so the military was
essentially set off within the constitution as a separate
organ of the government, really separate and apart
from civilian oversight. And so that beneficial
constitutional arrangement suggests, really, that the
military in many ways was not, in the beginning, dissatisfied
with where this was headed. REIHAN SALAM: They were going
to do business with it. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA:
Absolutely. They got a very favorable deal
in the constitution, they assumed that the country
has very big problems. They’re very bad
at governance. It’s much better for civilian,
to be, at least, in the front, publicly be dealing
with these issues. And so you see the possibility
of a modus vivendi, of sorts, and perhaps a stable
arrangement. The assumption underlying that
is that the civilians in charge are going to
be able to run the country, keep stability. I mean, for the military– the two things they really
care about– they’re misguided, yes, and
authoritarianism in their mindset, but they’re patriots. They do care about the stability
of the country. And when they think about their
role as the guarantors of national security,
they consider themselves as a guardian. Not just of the country’s
national security against foreign foes, but really they
think about it expansively as potentially a– REIHAN SALAM: To put it bluntly,
I mean, under Morsi’s presidency it seemed as though
the country was falling apart. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: It was. REIHAN SALAM: You
have just chaos. Youth unemployment was
already a problem. It seemed to have been
exacerbated during the period of time. So the one thing you could
say, I guess, during the Mubarak era is that there’s
tremendous poverty, tremendous inequality, but the society
was basically functioning. Whereas under Morsi, it just
seemed as though it was no longer functioning. Basic institutions were
breaking down. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: Yeah. No, I mean, I think
that’s right. I mean, he faced an intransigent
and uncooperative state of bureaucracy that didn’t
necessarily want to do business with him. REIHAN SALAM: So that’s
fascinating. So the New York Times has a new
report which suggests– MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: Yes. REIHAN SALAM: –that immediately
after Morsi is removed from power, suddenly
the police returned to the streets, suddenly civil
institutions seemed to be working far more effectively
than they had before. And so some Egyptians
believe– Egyptians who were favorably
inclined towards Morsi and the Brotherhood seem to believe
that there was kind of conspiracy to undermine– MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: Yeah,
I think it’s overstated. REIHAN SALAM: –the
Brotherhood. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: Frankly,
the police have been on the streets for some time. The security vacuum exists
because of the unique circumstances in the country. Part of it, frankly, is the
erosion of the moral force of the police. The moral authority of the
state has receded. And that’s hard to restore. REIHAN SALAM: So just to be
clear, you think that there really were failures on the
part of Morsi and his administration. It wasn’t just a conspiracy to
undermine him, it really was that they were just simply
not competent. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: I think
it’s hard to be reductive. It’s a whole series of causes. But one of them is the decision
to contest the presidency to begin with. They reneged on a pledge early
on during the transition not to run for the presidency as a
way of reassuring the people who didn’t participate in the
revolution with them, people wary of the Brotherhood, that
we, as the Brotherhood– the most organized political
force– are not going to seek a
monopoly on the state. And it was a huge mistake,
obviously, in retrospect. Partly because they created a
series of backlashes that made their rule much more
complicated. And if you’re going to assume
the presidency in the face of an intransigent bureaucracy,
part of your job is to figure out how to get this
machinery to work. REIHAN SALAM: It does seem as
though Morsi overplayed his hand in that– so shortly after having
cooperated with the United States vis-a-vis a crisis in the
Sinai, how is an Islamist government in Egypt going to
deal with Hamas, for example? And other groups. So then, when it seems as
though he had had the confidence of the United States,
then suddenly he was eager to take more power
from the military. And then it makes sense the
military would resent that. So, I mean, do you see that as
the fundamental problem? That he became too ambitious
in terms of the amount of power he could take? MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: Well,
I mean, partly it was– people have always said the
Brothers have their finger on the pulse of Egypt. And it turns out, they didn’t. And they read something far more
permanent and essential in the electoral results
of the past few years– a sense that this
is the political equilibrium of Egypt– them ascendant. And it bred a certain sense of
denigration of the opposition. As inauthentic, as
unrepresentative, out-of-touch, elites. REIHAN SALAM: Meaning the
opposition of the Brotherhood? I mean– MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: Yeah, I
mean the political opposition of the Brotherhood. And it plays into this vanguard
sense of their role in Egyptian society. And so you see this trend if
not just zero-sum politics, but a real disdain for
the opposition– an unwillingness to even
engage with them. They engage the military
because they have to. Its powerful party. They engage also with the
Salafi parties who did surprisingly well in the first
parliamentary elections. But they read, as do many
foreign diplomats, they read these electoral results as
bespeaking something much more fundamental about Egyptian
society. And in the end, this is a
chaotic, fractured opposition. The political parties are not
able to capture the full spectrum of opposition
sentiment. And so you get somewhat
skewed results. And so the opposition sentiment
in the country is more diffuse, but not fully
represented by say, the first parliament in Egypt. And of course, you couple that
with the growing resentment to the failures of the Morsi
government, and you get an expanded opposition. And they, frankly,
didn’t know it. They didn’t see it coming. And that’s part of their
insular mindset, and an assumption that this opposition
was foreign, was funded by the Gulf, by the
Emirates the Saudis. REIHAN SALAM: So they dismissed
it because they didn’t think it was real. They thought this is just kind
of like a group of effete you know, kind of urbanites. And they don’t represent
the heart the country. Now that’s not just a view
that’s held by the Brotherhood. That seems to be view that’s
held by some people in the US, as well. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA:
That’s right. REIHAN SALAM: So one view– so we hear about how there were
massive street protests against Morsi that kept
building and building. And some numbers, you hear as
many as 14 million people– which is quite a lot in a
country of 85 million people. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA:
That’s true. REIHAN SALAM: But then the
question is, well look, at the Brotherhood is deeply rooted
in Egyptian society. And then once Morsi is removed,
you now have growing protests of people who support
the Brotherhood, and people who seemed to be willing to
really risk life and limb in order to get Morsi restored. So you seem to be in this
strange dynamic where partly we’re making political
determinations based on which group can get more bodies out
in the street, which kind of already seems kind of
chaotic in itself. But the other view is that maybe
those of us in the West are inclined to think that the
liberal, secular opposition– they’re actually they guys who
have got a lot of leading American public intellectuals
saying that, hey this coup isn’t so bad. And it seems like this very
confusing message, because part of what we’re trying to say
is that, hey, we might not like Islamists. But kind of like, the United
States has been too associated for too long with backing
military regimes, and what have you. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: Yeah. REIHAN SALAM: And so kind of
like, we ought to have given this more of a shot. And then by saying that the coup
is not so bad– you know, maybe we’re– MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: Yeah, I
mean look, there are important equities involved on both
sides of this issue. And it is complicated. I mean it’s trite to say, but
it’s incredibly complicated. There was a genuine
popular uprising. A popular uprising that in scope
and size surpassed that that toppled Mubarak. For the defenders of what
happened, they will say this is revolutionary continuity. REIHAN SALAM: How is it it’s–
so is it because the culture of the country has changed so
that actually people who would not have taken to the
streets before now emboldened to do so? MICHAEL WAHID HANNA:
Absolutely. So how did you get to this
massive outpouring? Well there are four factions
of slices and segments of Egyptian society. You have this Islamist
current– we know about them well. We have the reformist opposition
that sort of led the initial uprising
in Tahrir. You have the supporters
of the former regime. And then you have what
Egyptians call, Hezb Al-Kanaba– the party of the couch– the
people who have long been assumed to be the
silent majority. That are slightly apolitical
and have never come to the streets. REIHAN SALAM: Egypt Is a society
where you didn’t have this kind of mass protest
for a very long time– for 30 years. Then suddenly you have these
protests in 2011 and then you have another wave of protests
in 2013 that are bigger than those that came before them. So how did people learn how to
bring down a government? How did they learn to
communicate with each other in what had been a very
repressive society? And what changed between 2011
and 2013 in terms of literally just the techniques and
technologies that people were using to get people out
on the streets. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: Well I
mean, we should remember that not only were there protests in
2011 that we know about in 2013 that we just saw, but
there has been a sort of continuous wave of protests that
has roiled the country ever since. And so the protests really
have never stopped. I mean, it’s quite remarkable. I mean, there, in some sense,
is a professional class of protesters. They know how to protest. REIHAN SALAM: And 40% youth
unemployment has got to be part of that as well. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA:
Absolutely. And there’s a committed
activist class that has grown up. But clearly, to get this level
of mass mobilization, you have to be tapping into something
much, much broader. This last wave of protests was
centered on a signature campaign called Tamarud,
which means a sort of rebel campaign. I think what happened on June
30 is that the opposition largely came out. You had the supporters of the
former regime coming out, creating a very strange
tactical alliance. One that has really been the
key divide within the non-Islamist space and
dented their ability to be really effective. And then lastly, you had
two additional factors. One– the softening of Islamist
support for Morsi. The biggest Salifi party–
the Nour party– called for early elections and
didn’t come out in the street in support of him. So it softened his base of
support in terms of the protests, and because of
economic scarcity and deprivation, you had people from
this fourth apolitical current come out to the streets
for the first time. And so you had this really– REIHAN SALAM: That’s
by the general deterioration of services? MICHAEL WAHID HANNA:
Absolutely. REIHAN SALAM: They’re
just mad has hell. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: So it’s
an inchoate movement. It’s hard to know what this
means, what it represents, what it can stand for,
if anything. But it’s reflective of this
much broader opposition sentiment that wasn’t
fully captured by electoral outcomes. REIHAN SALAM: So Michael,
you’re someone who cares deeply about Egypt. You’ve spent a lot
of time there. You have family there. And one think that we’re hearing
now is that we’re going to see persistent
civil strife. Some even speak of
a civil war. You see that, again 14 million
people on the street to get Morsi out, and now you have
people who seem to be willing to throw their bodies
kind of on bayonets. I mean, really willing to die in
order to redress what they see as a very grave injustice
in the overthrow of Morsi. Do you believe that more
violence is inevitable and this is going to spiral
out of control? Or do you think that there’s
going to be some kind of new political maturity to
prevent something like that from happening? MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: I think
it depends on the decisions made in the very near
term, frankly. I mean, I don’t think anything
is set in stone. I think, more broadly, the
potential of a civil strife has been there for
quite some time. I don’t think it’s just
a function of June 30. I’ve been, frankly,
warning about this for four months now. And not to say that it’s
inevitable, or even likely, but possible. For too long, people have
assumed that Egypt– someone quipped that Egyptians
are to muddling through what the Germans are to
engineering. This is what the Egyptians do. They’ll manage to get to some
suboptimal messy outcome, but they’ll get through without
really going off the rails and getting to a worst-case
scenario. REIHAN SALAM: What you needed
was a more magnanimous political leadership. You needed someone to come
into power and be like, I represent this current. I don’t necessarily represent
everyone, I need to be respectful of that. And we’re into this very
delicate political transition. And if I’m trying to achieve
certain long-term political objectives, this is
not necessarily the time to do that. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA:
That’s right. I mean, and it’s– REIHAN SALAM: And you think
Morsi tried to move too fast in controlling the levers
of power and advancing his agenda? MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: It’s
a whole host of things. In some sense, he had an
illusory sense of his grip on power and what he could do. REIHAN SALAM: He thought that
52% was a lot more solid than it really was. He thought that– OK. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: And that
he could really come in and not reform the institutions
of the state, but co-opt to his advantage. And maybe come to some sort
of operating agreement [INAUDIBLE]. REIHAN SALAM: So now in this
transitional period again, we need that kind of magnanimity
again. We need some kind of
figure who is– is there anyone who
has that kind of legitimacy in Egyptian society? MICHAEL WAHID HANNA:
Not at the moment. I mean, people have always said,
look the Brothers are a political party and political
players, they’re always going to be looking for political
advantage. And that’s fine, but this is
a transitional setting. And this goes for all
of the parties. The Brotherhood come in for
disproportionate blame because they have disproportionate– and have had disproportionate
power in the recent past. This is a divided country. It’s polarized. It is a sensitive period of
transition that is trying to refashion a new social
contract. Foundational documents like a
constitution can’t be agreed to on a 50% plus one basis. It’s not going to
be sustainable. And I said at the time, and I’m
sorry say that it’s come true, but that constitution
that institutionalized the country’s political crisis
clearly is not going to be sustainable, and it’s
not going to last. So there’s got to be some
baseline threshold level of maturity and consensus that
tries to cobble together some new social contract. Because no one faction and
govern Egypt, and the Brotherhood made that mistake. REIHAN SALAM: I hate to do
this because this is very grim– but so what you’re saying
is that we need some level of political maturity
and magnanimity. This is a society that’s been incredibly scarred by violence. Resentments that have been in
place for decades, if not longer than that, I mean,
a real deep sense of history as well. So let’s say you do have
persistent civil strife. Let’s say that’s the
direction we go. Does that have the potential to
spillover outside of Egypt? Does that have the potential
to introduce real instability elsewhere? Because right now it seems that
the Middle East in the post-Arab Spring era– it just seems like there’s so
much dislocation, so much– MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: Yeah. REIHAN SALAM: –potential
for strife. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: Yeah. I mean, I think the possibility
is real. Egyptians have comforted
themselves in saying, we’re not Syria, we’re not Iraq. We don’t have this history of
bitter division that has spilled over into violent
conflict. Egypt is a real country. Its borders aren’t a
colonial creation. And so that sense of national
identity, for many, has been seen as a buffer. And of course, it has been. But at some point,
the social fabric can only be so resilient. And under enough stress,
certainly civil strife is possible in Egypt. And again, as we said earlier,
what happens in Egypt obviously has outsized
impact on the region. And instability in Egypt
is a disaster– obviously for Egyptians– but more broadly, it would be a
real tragedy for the region. REIHAN SALAM: Is there
anything the United States can do ? Is there anything the
US leadership– to minimize those risks? MICHAEL WAHID HANNA:
It’s difficult. The United States has been a
difficult position, frankly, since the fall of Mubarak. I think what you see, in fact,
is not really erratic or changing or even evolving
policy. It’s true that now we are
willing to deal with the Brotherhood and political Islam
and Salafi groups that we’re seen as beyond the pale
before, which was a mistake. But the core continuity is
there, in the sense that the US-Egypt bilateral relationship
is primarily– and probably rightly
so– about US regional security interests. And to the extent that those
are fulfilled, the domestic situation takes on a
lesser importance. I think the key conclusion that
we have to draw from this very tumultuous two-plus years
now is that that bargain on repressive stability is
no longer an offer. It can’t work. And so if we’re seen to be
betting on a winning horse, that’s one, not going to work in
the sense of bringing about stability in Egyptian society,
and two, it’s going to poison our relationships with some
of the other currents. We see some of this
in Egypt now. Some of it is grossly
exaggerated. I mean, there are wild concocted
conspiracies about the United States and the
Brotherhood that have absolutely no basis in reality
that have taken on a life of their own in a very heightened
nationalistic setting. REIHAN SALAM: Hillary Clinton
is in cahoots with the Brotherhood– MICHAEL WAHID HANNA:
Sure, sure. REIHAN SALAM: –because
of her Chief of Staff. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: Yeah
I mean, crazy talk. REIHAN SALAM: Yeah. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: And
that’s unfortunate. I think we have made a series of
tactical mistakes in terms of our posture and approach
to this fluid and evolving situation. In the end, obviously,
agency for Egypt’s future lies with Egyptians. I think it is important the
United States still plays a very important role. We saw this in the
moment of crisis. The only outside party that had
channels of communication and was talking to both military
and the Muslim Brotherhood was the
United States. And I do think that the sense
of US decline in the Arab world is exaggerated to a large
degree and rests on a notion of ahistoricisity in
the sense that a past that never existed. The United States was never
able to dictate political outcomes in the Arab world. It’s not able to do that
now, but it’s still plays a central role– a role that no other outside
party can play, and that’s important to keep in mind. REIHAN SALAM: Got it. So don’t necessarily cut
off aid, stay engaged. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA:
Well, yes. I mean, that’s– stay engaged goes
without saying. I mean, I don’t think that’s– REIHAN SALAM: But there’s
no particular thing we should do– just try to navigate this
period as kind of– MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: I think we
have to approach the issue was a great deal more finesse. We’ve been sort of blunt in
wanting to deal with one concentration of power– in continuing the practice of
trying to deal with the party in power in a way that I think
has given our policy a bad reputation. REIHAN SALAM: Michael,
thank you very much. This was tremendous. MICHAEL WAHID HANNA: Thank you.

100 thoughts on “New Wave of Violence in Egypt with Michael Hanna: VICE Podcast 012

  1. "God's chosen people" huh? I don’t think Yahweh approves your filthy mouth. Yet again he commands Instant death for talking back to your parents or Breaking the Sabath (Ex 31:14-15), Kill anyone who teaches you another religion, even a member of your family (Deut 13:1-11). Elisha, who violence came easy to him, ordered 42 young boys to die for calling him baldy. (II Kings 2:23, 24); Even though it goes against the bible since it forbids retaliation that exceeds the original provocation.

  2. To be Fair, Egypt President Mohammed Morsi played merciful by not dispersing the protesters using force, now that the table has been turned, the one who is in power is not showing mercy to the protesters, so who is really practicing Democracy?

    When they ousted Morsi they ceased Islamic news stations, arrested MB leaders and clerics and froze thier Bank assets, which is sign of Military Coup.

  3. it okay its coming to America Soon. Actually nah, too many Cyber revolutionists; You'll just end up in FEMA camps.

  4. hey buddy way to go thousands and thousands of years ago you're people are killing way more than what the crusades have done in 1 year

  5. And didn't that HOMOSEXUAL Anderson Cooper say back when Egypt was having riots that the young people were peaceful and just like American kids with iPhones and dungarees? What a liar and a bitch just like the majority of the government

  6. "and then makes changes that the military doesn't like" Bullshit, everyone other then the MB disliked the direction he took. Hence the up rise to push the military to remove Morsi from office.

  7. About the MB not being part of the original uprising is just not true.

    1. a MB member said in an interview that the guy running the Facebook page was actually "one of ours". Whatever that means.

    2. The uprisings started a few months after Al Quada sent a message to the MB that it was time to rise up ("it's been the time of medina but now it's the time of Mecca"). Inteligence analysts warned the government that the Musilim Brotherhood was about to attempt uprisings in the middle east.

  8. Army isn't perfect but if you left Morsi alone there would have just been another uprising. Jews and Christains hate Morsi. He acted like they didn't exist in regards to the management of the country. Morsi also elected an ex terrpist be a govenor of a region, forgive me I forget ehich one but you can look all this up.

  9. appointed an ex-terroist* And when I said Jews and Christains, I meant the ones in Egypt. Also just wanna say that there are many videos of Morsi supporters chanting that they wanna kill non-Sunni Muslims, and all non-Muslims. No joke use memritv

  10. i shaved my unibrow away haha. now it looks normal 🙂

  11. Whats up guys. Would love if you could check out our video on our channel. We are a comedy band from Ireland. Our song is about shitting your pants. Great topic not many people like to talk about. Woohoo.

  12. they just scream mosi out but what for. dont seem to have excuses and they want to kill him even though he has stepp down

  13. the aid to the egyptian army allowed for the largest arab country to be under USA's influence for over 30 years, trust me, it wasnt a bad idea to help fund and equip the egyptian army…

  14. America seem ti fund the biggest countries to whatever happens so they can finally be broken down and hopefully build up again under new control… It seems more like a matter of pushing the balance of power more than actually funding them for any kind of economical aid etc… Time to scream NWO.???

  15. " overly-intellectual for his age"? wha…? And why capitalize gay? Is that a nationality or a football team? And why would either of those things negatively affect a discussion on political evolution in Egypt?

    Should he be dumbing the interview down to match his age? Did he constantly bring up felching during the discussion?

  16. Just swallow the new information you have chanciously stumbled upon and move on to your next video perhaps a kardashian video would be in order?

  17. To start off I agree with what you are saying Grimr. After excluding any possibility of a conflict of opinions, I would suggest that you watch a BBC documentary called Stupidity (you can find it on YouTube) to understand where such statements (those of ytugtbk and primalamerica) come from. Hope you enjoy watching it.

  18. Michael Wahid Hanna's expertiese on middle east politics is proven most importantly by his impressive brow display.

  19. A use of an extensive vocabulary is evidence of intellect. More than that they seem to have done their homework rather well.

  20. That is quite untrue. Now I know that my following paragon is of meagre validity but look at it this way: The year in the Muslim calendar is around 1434 Hijri. What comes next is an honest call to reflect on the nature and ways of other religions , now considered benevolent, accepting and peaceful, around the very same date in their existence. I know that it is far more complex of an issue, with a wide array of factors coming into play. But ,just like society, religion is subject to evolution

  21. prophecies in the bible state that Egypt breaks down into constant strife in the end times. so I suspect this is it's beginning period of that.

  22. Not to mention that you are considering Islam a wholesome thing and excluding religious factions, philosophies, sect, thought and religious currents, religious interpretations, unwritten social and tribal laws, internal politics, provenance, education, country. Islam has been deliberately antagonized by highlighting the most extreme currents of Islam as representatives of the majority of the religion, such as the Wahhabi sect: Al Quaeda and the Saudi ruling family, the latter supported by the US

  23. People like you 2 are like this :" Democracy is a best thing .Whole planet must have it ." the biggest account is military budget …Conclusion ?

  24. Really? I don't see Shia's killing people. To me as a humane person, it's hard to NOT to believe that the Sunni Wahabies/Salafies are the cancerous groups of this world, for the simplest reason: They murder people in their God's name and disrespect their remains. That is quite simply the exact opposite of what your God has explicitly says in the Quran, quite literally. If there's one thing I know about Shia, is that they definitely don't do that.

  25. my thoughts exactly, everytime i pass my shiite neighbors i'm always scared they'll try to sacrifice me for hussain :S

  26. I find it really hard to pay attention to what they're saying, looking beyond the glass is so much more entertaining.

  27. yeah, this is really fantastic. i know one thing for sure, my spouse is getting paid monthly for doing some surveys and browsing sites. if you wanna try just try now: bit.ly171KfKs

  28. Ok, sorry i knew that, so how many support the mb, cos if its more than 20% its gonna get brutal. This makes me very sad and angry, i've even been told hamas has been stealing through the tunnels egypts stuff, muslims have to unite or your going to get robbed by the west…again.

  29. #TomorrowMorningsNews Barack Hussein Obama is really the cloned alien hybrid of Pharaoh Akhenaten aka Moses! Barack Hussein Obama aka Barry Soetoro when in Egypt said "He looks like me" when looking at ancient stone carvings of Pharaoh Akhenaten! Where did those strange scares on the back of his head come from? Barack Hussein Obama told a little girl that asked "What made you want to be president?" that "Someone hit me in the head with a rock" What's going on here?

  30. They act way too fake, and way too full of just opinions. Also, I can hardly believe most of the comments I see on here. They are the same way.

  31. Fairly stable? WTF is he smoking? There were so many injustices. It has always been repressive. "It works" What a piece of shit. Copts tattooing their children to protect them? WTF is that reality? –

  32. Please post your opinion here if you've lived in Egypt before or living there now! I'd love to here it from the people themselves if possible, ta! Peace!

  33. Obama is funding the muslim brotherhood to fight against the anti-Morsi crowd made up of people who love freedom and hate tyranny.

  34. A. That is just sectarian hate.
    B. I can recognize rhetoric-based propaganda when I see it. So I suggest you let me be.
    C. If your country is facing difficulties, please know that it is partly thanks to people with views and opinions akin to yours.

  35. I find it funny that people always blame Obama… maybe its these people fault why they are such in a mess. Ever thought about that? I am so tired of people blaming America-Obama-Israel. Take responsibility for your self. YOU guys are killing other Arabs. It would be different if actually American troops are station in Syria and Egypt killing people, but they are not. You'll are killing yourselves!!!!!!!!!!!

  36. about your inability to understand the truth "A use of an extensive vocabulary is evidence of intellect" ahahahahahahahahahah

  37. People in Egypt are smarter than Americans. They realize that Islamists only have one common goal- total domination. They have not an inkling of tolerance for the Western culture unless they are the minority…than they just pretend they do for self preservation.

  38. Apart from North Africa, the Muslim World hasn't been colonised in any meaningful way. There were the British protectorates after WW1 and an amount of corporate imperialism in the guise of BP, etc, but those days were brief and are long gone.

  39. sure over the last 4000 yrs yup. and your point? lol clearly you couldn't grasp the meaning of what I wrote from your reply. try using your brain on it more it's an easy one. with more thinking you should get it.

  40. its funny to see that as soon as the military wants to take power electricity and shortages of other needs were becoming common heavily.

  41. They arrested many cause they were inciting violence and/or had connections to terrorist organizations. Also that is not true about Morsi, Brotherhood snipers killed many innocents passing by and then chalked it up as Brotherhood casualties. I'm not always worried about Morsi himself, although he's a rat, it's the organization as a whole that worries me.

  42. Well Violence begets Violence. If you check history and what Asisi did, they will just get stronger. They are just laying low until they get the opportunity. They know that declaring war against the gov is not a good idea b.c they learned a Lesson from Assad's Dad when he mascaraed innocent people and prisoners when they fought him. Now AL Qaeda in Iraq has pledged war in Egypt and its a matter of time that Egypt will become the Next Syria.

  43. They aren't getting stronger cause they were kicked out of power. And ur wrong about the Brotherhood not fighting back. Numerous Brotherhood supporters have been seen carrying Ak's and shot guns. Plus Brotherhood snipers have shot people from on top of Mosques. The Brotherhood has also allied itself with evil Salafists that controlled certain villages that the army was only just able to liberate. Yes the army has it's bad apples but it's core principles aren't screwed up like the Brotherhood.

  44. Also Morsi arrested commentators that made fun of his backwards conservatism. He had a friend of John Stewart arrested on charges of promoting homosexuality…. Members of Morsi's government were also seen making speeches supporting Hamas and one member was even seen at the Palestinian parliament praising Hamas.

  45. Also Morsi's constitution gave no real rights to non-Muslims and attacks on Jews and Christians increased massively after the Brotherhood came to power. Christians are being slaughtered by evil Salafists and Brotherhood gangs that are allied with them. Morsi said some bullshit claims about bringing in women and Christians to his cabinet but that never happened. Do not trust the Brotherhood they support terror groups across the Middle East and they killed many people during their founding years.

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