Andrew C. McCarthy: Don’t Count on Egypt’s Army





[Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.]

‘My name is Khalid Islambouli,” the assassin thundered. “I have slain Pharaoh, and I do not fear death!” This was at an annual state parade in Cairo on October 6, 1981. Islambouli, swelling with a delirious pride, had just strafed the reviewing stand with bullets, killing Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and hurtling his nation into chaos.

That was the plan. Islambouli, like several of his coconspirators, was a Muslim Brotherhood veteran who’d drunk deep the incitements of the Ikhwan’s martyred leader, Sayyid Qutb, but lost patience with the organization’s Fabian approach to revolution. He’d joined Islamic Jihad, one of several splinter groups that would later be folded into al-Qaeda by another Brotherhood alum, Ayman Zawahiri.

They’d hoped to trigger an Islamic upheaval by “cutting off the head of the snake” and seizing power in the ensuing chaos. But apart from murdering the president, the plot failed. Power passed seamlessly to Sadat’s vice president, Hosni Mubarak, who cracked down brutally on the terrorists.

The story is worth remembering as chaos grips Egypt yet again. In the drama three decades ago, one tie beyond citizenship united all the major players — the villain, the victim, the heroes who put down the uprising, and the bureaucrat who emerged from obscurity to grab the autocratic reins he has yet to relinquish: They were all members of the Egyptian military.

With events on the ground shifting even faster than the Obama administration’s positions on them — though not quite as quickly as the sudden proliferation of Egypt experts — received wisdom holds that the one anchor of stability in the unfolding crisis is the military. It is said to be the only solid ground in Cairo’s cataclysm. Otherwise, the scene at Tahrir Square, depending on who is doing the describing and who is projecting which hopes and fears, is alternatively a tea party, a human-rights riot, or an explosion of Islamist rage....

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