Egypt: Will American Officials Call this a ‘Coup?’

This is obviously a fast moving situation, but the latest reports suggest that the army is effectively staging a coup and ousting President Morsi.  So what to think of this? On the one hand, Morsi was democratically elected. On the other hand, he’s used is power in ways that tended to subvert the constitutional process and has obviously alienated massive swaths of the populace.

From a diplomatic perspective, this all is somewhat unsatisfactory. A healthy democracy is one in which the military is subservient to civilian authorities. This is clearly not the case in Egypt. Also, US policy stipulates that military coups trigger an automatic cutoff of bi-lateral military assistance. That poses a dilemma for American policy makers: If this is indeed a coup (which seems to be the case) then it would be hard not to use the term “coup” to describe it. At the same time, the White House and most of Congress will probably shed no tears over Morsi’s ouster; and Washington does not want to undermine Egypt’s military at this time.

Expect some fanciful linguistic contortions when asked whether or not this is, in fact, a “coup?”