Fifth Element in Egypt?

I claim no special insight into the dramatic events going on in Egypt.

But part of what makes it all so fascinating and volatile is the interplay among four important elements of the Egyptian political scene: the Morsi government, the anti-Morsi protesters, the military, and most recently pro-Morsi protesters.

As an American, though, I don’t know whether to be reassured or disturbed that it seems to be widely assumed that the United States is a “fifth element” that will both play a critical role in the outcome and bear responsibility for what happens next. Just yesterday, an aide to Morsi told the Guardian that it did not fear a “military coup” because it couldn’t and wouldn’t happen without U.S. support. Publicly President Obama has limited himself so far to urging Morsi to negotiate with the opposition (and also to reign in his supporters, particularly those engaging in sexual assaults against women who are protesting). But it’s clearly assumed by everyone that the U.S. is doing a lot more privately, which means Obama might as well use whatever leverage he actually has to produce real, peaceful change.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.