Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi may win the prize for biggest failure ever. His historic role as the first elected leader of Egypt in thousands of years of history was a disaster. He was kicked out after around a year by a popular coup, as oxymoronic as that may sound. He’s a clown, but that doesn’t mean he should die. Unfortunately that seems very possible. He was sentenced to death on May 16th and his appeal comes up on June 16th. Killing him would be a mistake. This video delves into Turkish and Russian History to show why…

TRANSCRIPT:

Hello All. I have very little sympathy for Mohammed Morsi. In June 2012 he was elected President of Egypt, making him the first popularly chosen leader of that country in thousands of years of recorded history. He did such an incredibly terrible job that he was thrown out by a popularly supported coup just one year later. I’m no fan of coups, but if anybody deserves one, this guy did. On May 16th, however, he was sentenced to death. The legal rationale doesn’t interest me much, and I have no doubt that he did terrible things but I think killing him is a mistake.

One of the most important marks of a modern political system is a peaceful transition of power. Egypt won’t get there for a while, but there is an intermediate step on the way. One of the marks of a maturing system is one that at least doesn’t kill its disgraced leaders. We want our rulers to be wise. Wise people don’t take jobs that can kill them.

The republic of Turkey killed its first democratically elected leader. Adnan Menderes took a while longer to screw up. He was popularly elected in 1950, and did very well for a time. In the late 1950s, however, his administration went off the rails, getting progressively more authoritarian, and engaging in shameful abuse of the country’s minorities. The military stepped in in 1960 and killed him after a show trial the next year. This decision made sense to the generals at the time, but it has had ramifications for Turkish democracy ever since. The current government still uses what happened to him as an excuse for its oppressive treatment of journalists. The decision to kill Menderes also poisoned Turkey’s next attempt at democracy, which ended when the military stepped in again in 1980. That savage coup caused a great deal of suffering, but its leaders had learned a valuable lesson. Rather than kill the leaders of the prior failed political system, they were banned from politics for a time. It’s impossible to say for sure, but I don’t think Turkey would have made it to the imperfect but vastly better system it has now if those leaders had been killed.

Until the Mid 20th century Russia was one of the most brutally absolutist countries on the planet. The tsars who could handle power could do as they wished, and those who failed died. The Revolution that killed the last of the Tsars spent its first decades devouring its children. Kruschev was the first Russian leader to survive a fall from power. This represented a crucial step forward. The reforms that brought about the end of the Soviet Union would not have been possible without a leadership class whose personal survival was independent of their personal power. Russia is by no means perfect today, but it is doing much better than Egypt is.

Egypt’s current state of development is a historical tragedy. In the mid-19th century Egypt had better institutions than most countries in Europe. It could have joined Japan in the ranks of modern non-Western countries. Unfortunately it was too close to Europe, and its success made it a target for that continent’s imperial powers. Egypt has spent the past 150 years suffering under British and now US dominance. A crucial first step towards freeing itself from that influence would be letting Morsi rot in jail. Giving him a martyr’s dignity serves nobody, and also makes Egypt a weaker country.

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