In his statement condemning the violence in Egypt President Obama has asked his national security team to assess the implications of the military’s assault against its own people. There is no need for long deliberations. The likely consequences are uniformly grim.
This is a grave setback for the cause of democracy and the prospects for nonviolent change. From the blood of the many ‘martyrs’ killed by the military will grow seeds of revenge and retaliatory violence. Chaos and terror will likely spread in Egypt and beyond.
The military may be able to kill and imprison the leaders of the Islamic Brotherhood, but they will not be able to crush the broader Islamic movement, or alter the fact that Islam has been and remains the dominant political force in Egypt and most Arab countries.
The slaughter now underway undermines the hope for democratic politics in Egypt and most of the Arab world. No Islamic political leader in the region will be able to argue credibly that the methods of democracy are a viable path to progress.
The same is true for the use of nonviolent methods of change. The dreams of the youth who led the unarmed revolution have turned into a nightmare, their bright hopes shattered by mass killing in the streets. Few will believe any longer in the power of nonviolence.
President Obama should take more forceful action, joining with other nations to seek a quick end to military rule and a return to civilian rule.