The Solipsistic State

The New York Times’ headline for Thursday, July 4, 2013, printed above a nearly page-wide photograph showing a spectacular eruption of fireworks in the nighttime sky above Cairo, read Egypt Army Ousts Morsi, Suspends Charter.  Almost an earth’s half-turn apart, Egypt celebrated the downfall of her year-old “democracy,” while the United States of America memorialized the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence 237 years after the Continental Congress proclaimed the birth of the world’s first modern democratic republic.  (“Memorialized” rather than celebrated: Memorials remember dead things, not living ones.)  The accompanying article, by David D. Kirkpatrick, quoted an American scholar at the Naval Postgraduate School in California, who explained to the reporter that the members of the Egyptian military “tend to think alike and they are a force to be reckoned with because, besides the [Muslim] Brotherhood, they are the only really cohesive institution in the country.”  Kirkpatrick closed his story by noting, “The most important thing from the military’s perspective is preserving its place as the locus of power and influence in the system.”

Reading the Times’ account, I was reminded of a book published two years ago by Joseph S. Nye, Jr., an Ivy League professor and former U.S. foreign-policy official whose establishment...

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