By Roger Annis
July 4, 2013–Yesterday’s military coup in Egypt presents a difficult challenge to progressive forces in that country. Much of the protest movement against the authoritarian rule of President Mohamed Morsi, elected last year, has welcomed the coup. But it will come to rue the day it came to rely on the military to deal with its grievances against Morsi, for there is nothing in the past year to suggest that anything has changed in the military hierarchy that the vast majority of Egyptians came to loath during the long, dark years of the rule of former president Hosni Mubarak.
The Revolutionary Socialists of Egypt issued a statement on July 2 calling on Morsi to resign and saying nothing of the impending military coup. The statement raises serious questions. Was a military coup the preferred alternative for the socialists to Morsi? The statement welcomes a “transitional government” to come into power, but under the prevailing circumstances, this could only mean a military-appointed government.
Three demands contained in the statement are directed to a “transitional government”. Who would act upon them? One cannot seriously expect a military-appointed regime to do so.
Last year, 52% of those who went to the polls in the second round of the presidential election voted for Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood party. What are they to think, and how are they to react, as they watch much of progressive, Egyptian society, including, it seems, some of the “socialists”, hail a military coup or turn a blind eye?
In an interesting comparison to these recent events in Egypt, earlier this year, a France military intervention into Mali was welcomed by broad sections of progressive society in Mali and in France. That invasion was dressed up as a salvation mission to rescue the country from the clutches of Islamist fundamentalists. Earlier, in March 2012, important sections of the political left in Mali welcomed a coup d’etat by the country’s decrepit military leader against Mali’s elected president.
Today, France and its U.S. ally are preparing to stage a national presidential election in Mali that would establish a stable, client political regime. At the same time, they have put into place a permanent, two-pronged military occupation consisting of a 1,000-member strike force controlled exclusively by France and a 12,000 member, UN Security Council-sponsored police and military force (known by its acronym as MINUSMA). The latter, to be sure, draws upon the militaries of the neighbouring neo-colonial regimes for many of its foot soldiers, just as in Haiti, the majority of foot soldiers of the MINUSTAH regime are from Latin American countries.
* The Fall of the Brotherhood, a July 4 commentary by the editors of the U.S. Socialist Worker newspaper and web zine. The editors caution the socialists and other progressives in Egypt against political reliance on Egypt’s military leaders.
* In Egypt, the Military is Supreme, by Esam al-Amin, Counterpunch, July 4, 2013
* Gilbert Achcar, author and professor at the University of London, gave a two-part interview yesterday to the Real News Network.
1. A ruinous intervention
Those who believe the Egyptian army’s priority is to preserve freedom will soon be disappointed
By Jonathan Steele, former chief foreign correspondent, The Guardian, July 4, 2013
Whether the Egyptian army’s actions last night and over the previous two days amount to a full-scale military coup can be debated. But what is clear beyond doubt is that they amount to a ruinous intervention in the politics of a country that had breathed the air of democracy for the first time for decades.
An army that appeared to be retreating from politics after the departure of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 has stepped back into the arena again, first by issuing an ultimatum to an elected president to obey it or resign, and then by going through with its threat and laying out a road map that deposes him and suspends the constitution.
Rejecting the results of elections that were widely deemed to be free and fair and setting aside a country’s basic law is a step that no army should ever take. The fact that the army’s move has been welcomed by many of the revolutionaries who first had the courage to go into the streets against Mubarak in 2011 is a desperate commentary on their political naivety and shortsightedness.
This is not to say that President Mohamed Morsi is blameless. The political charge sheet against him is long and detailed, the worst offence being his issuance last November of high-handed decrees to extend his powers. But he quickly rescinded them after protests.
During the latest turmoil on the streets, in spite of his defiant words about being ready to die, he again showed a willingness to compromise by offering to form a government of national unity and accelerate elections to a new parliament. But to make him entirely responsible for the disappointments of the past two years is absurd. It was not he but the supreme administrative court that dissolved the people’s assembly, the lower house of parliament. It is not he but the leaders of the opposition parties who produced a government that was largely dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi invited them to join the cabinet but they refused.
It certainly isn’t the president who should be blamed for the failure of the Egyptian economy to provide enough jobs for tens of thousands of young people who are graduating every year, let alone for an older generation that is out of work. Morsi went along with the IMF’s plans for an end to subsidies on food and utility prices that would only create more austerity, but so did most of the established opposition leaders who are now clamouring for power. As for the failure of the tourism sector to revive, the main reason for the chaos and instability that put off outsiders rests with the constant street provocations of demonstrators.
Much has rightly been made of the threat to Egyptian democracy that comes from the so-called deep state: the still entrenched bureaucracy made up of officials of Mubarak’s National Democratic party, elitist entrepreneurs who were his cronies, and an army hierarchy that
Much has rightly been made of the threat to Egyptian democracy that comes from the so-called deep state: the still entrenched bureaucracy made up of officials of Mubarak’s National Democratic party, elitist entrepreneurs who were his cronies, and an army hierarchy that exploited state assets or profited from newly privatised industries and trading companies. Some accused Morsi of joining the ranks of this authoritarian elite. But the real charge was that he did too little to challenge them or their footsoldiers, a corrupt and brutal police force. The irony of the events of the past few days is that those who are so energetically denouncing the president in Tahrir Square and the streets of other cities are falling into the trap made by the very elite they want to bring under control.
It is true that the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters are social conservatives who may pose a threat to some Egyptians’ civil rights. But the biggest and most immediate danger to the country is to the political rights that all Egyptians won with the overthrow of Mubarak. The abolition of one-party rule, the right of all kinds of political groups to organise freely, the lifting of media censorship, and the virtual curtailment of imprisonment for dissent are benefits that should not be abandoned lightly.
Those who believe that the military’s main objective is to preserve the new freedoms will soon be disappointed. From Chile in 1973 to Pakistan in 1999 (and several times before that), long is the history of military takeovers that were welcomed in their first hours and days but regretted in the years of despair that followed. For Egypt to follow in that tradition is a disaster.
2. He promised to rule for all – but soon faced a list of grievances
Egypt’s deposed president insisted he was legitimately elected last summer in a democratic poll most observers considered to be free and fair.
By Ian Black Middle East editor, The Guardian, July 4, 2013
Mohamed Morsi won 52% of the vote against 48% for Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force commander who was seen as a counter-revolutionary candidate representing the ousted Hosni Mubarak. Morsi had promised to rule “for all Egyptians”. But opponents complained that he did not govern democratically or effectively, and was autocratic and incompetent. Issues on which he faced criticism include:
The Muslim Brotherhood
Hostility to Egypt’s best-organised political movement (slogan: The Qur’an is our Constitution) has grown, along with charges that Morsi, a veteran Muslim Brotherhood (MB) member, has tried to “Brotherhoodise” state institutions. There has been angry questioning of the role of Khairat al-Shater, a powerful Brotherhood leader who was disqualified from running for president. Morsi aggravated the situation when he appointed seven governors from the Brotherhood and one from the Gamaa Islamiyya, the group responsible for a notorious massacre at Luxor in 1997.
Egypt’s already bad economic situation has worsened during Morsi’s year in power. With the approach of Ramadan and rising summer temperatures, power cuts, petrol shortages and soaring food prices have brought the crisis into millions of homes.
Investors and tourists are staying away. Foreign currency reserves have fallen by more than half since Mubarak was deposed.
The 22 November bombshell
Morsi’s single most polarising decision was the constitutional decrees that sacked the prosecutor-general, immunised presidential decisions from judicial review and shielded the Islamist-dominated Shura council and the constituent assembly from dissolution. That was a month before a referendum on a new constitution that leaned towards Islamist and conservative positions. Opponents called it a naked power-grab; supporters argued that it was necessary to resist a conspiracy against fledgling institutions.
The way the constitution was written was seen as a glaring example of unilateral and divisive action.
Justice and human rights
Opponents say Morsi failed to fulfil pledges to reform the security sector – police, intelligence services and paramilitary forces – pillars of the prerevolutionary state. On the contrary, he has made several supportive statements, most notably after the Port Said police massacre in January, in which 30 people were killed in a few hours. The effect has been to embolden the police to continue practices such as torture and murder in police stations.
The larger complaint was that Morsi failed to uphold democratic values and treated his election victory as a licence to rule unchallenged. A draft NGO law will allow the state to control civil society. Spurious cases have been pursued against journalists and activists.
The Cairo-based writer Abdel Rahman Hussein said the fundamental problem with Morsi’s rule was “never making a single concession ever, remaining intransigent at all times … [and] ignoring the Egyptian people and their grievances until the street protests grew and grew.”
3. Why Obama didn’t come out swinging
A military ouster of an elected leader would normally bring sharp recriminations from the U.S., but American security policy in the region depends on Egypt’s co-operation
By Campbell Clark, Globe and Mail, July 4, 2013
Egypt’s twisting politics have returned to sting Barack Obama. The U.S. President, pushed by the ballot box into an uneasy alliance with an elected Islamist leader, is now accepting his ouster.
In the space of a year, two kinds of Egyptian people-power have whipsawed Mr. Obama’s policy toward an important Arab nation he cannot afford to ignore. He bowed to the democracy movements of the Arab Spring a year ago by promising Egyptians he would work with the president they elected, even an Islamist like Mohammed Morsi – and continued to send military aid to Egypt. But many of the millions who took to the streets this week to demand Mr. Morsi go also blamed the U.S. for supporting him – and when the army stepped in to undo the electorate’s choice, Mr. Obama accepted it.
The U.S. President said Wednesday he’s “deeply concerned” about the army intervention, and urged an early return to elected civilian rule – but he did not condemn the ouster outright. “The voices of all those who have protested peacefully must be heard – including those who welcomed today’s developments, and those who have supported President Mursi,” he said in a statement. “In the interim, I urge all sides to avoid violence and come together to ensure the lasting restoration of Egypt’s democracy.”
Just minutes before Egypt’s military commander announced that Mr. Morsi had been removed, however, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki declined to comment on whether the army could legitimately remove him. “We’re not taking sides in this,” she said.
But one way or the other, the Obama administration is taking a position. A military ouster of an elected president would normally bring sharp recriminations from U.S. officials. This time, the U.S. shrugged.
So far, the United States has not called Wednesday’s events a coup – as it clearly wants to continue its alliance with Egypt, under new leadership. The issue about calling it a coup isn’t just about international acceptance, but U.S. aid dollars that depend on it.
American law forces the U.S. government to cut off aid to countries after a coup – threatening the $1.3-billion the United States provides to Egypt each year. Mr. Obama said he would launch a review of U.S. aid to Egypt. But news agencies, citing unnamed officials, suggested the Obama administration might seek to delay any determination on whether a coup has taken place, to give Egypt’s military leaders time to make good on promises to hold elections.
Mr. Obama’s willingness to accept Mr. Morsi as the elected president has haunted him in recent weeks – as many of the opposition protesters in Egypt blamed his administration for supporting a president from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood.
But the decision to work with Mr. Morsi, and continue military aid, was largely tactical: The U.S. wants influence with Egypt, the most populous country in the Middle East with 83 million people. Its security policy in the region depends on Egypt sticking to its treaties with Israel. And U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to revive Mideast peace talks will require Egyptian co-operation.
Egypt’s example could also dictate the course of Arab Spring democracy movements – and whether Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood that took part in elections will turn their back on democracy. Two neighbouring monarchies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, essentially welcomed Mr. Morsi’s ouster.
But University of Waterloo professor and Senior Fellow with the Centre for International Governance Innovation Bessma Momani said Western governments would not have accepted the ouster of a secular liberal president in a similar “coup d’état,” and things could deteriorate if Egypt’s army rounds up Muslim Brotherhood members and the movement goes underground again. “It plays into the ugly narrative of us versus them,” she said.
Like the U.S., Canada also faces a conundrum in responding to Wednesday’s events. The Harper government, normally critical of any military takeover, knows most Egyptian-Canadians sided with the protesters in calling for Mr. Morsi’s ouster. Ottawa, however, didn’t shy away from calling it a coup – but also didn’t directly condemn it. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, instead, called for calm, and efforts to establish a transparent democracy.
“Canada firmly believes that implementing a transparent democratic system that respects the voices of its citizens, and that encourages and respects the contributions of civil society and all other segments of the population – including religious minorities – is the best way to restore calm and give all Egyptians a stake in the future stability and prosperity of Egypt,” he said in a statement.
4. An unlikely leader whose grip on power was always tenuous
By Patrick Graham, Special to The Globe and Mail, 4 July 4, 2013
A few months ago, Mohammed Morsi and I were walking across the gardens of the presidential palace with his security detail at a discreet distance. It was the end of more than three hours I had spent with him over three days. It was not a good time to be president of Egypt. The currency was dropping, an important IMF loan was in jeopardy and there were riots between Christians and Muslims.
Everyone knew it was going to be a volatile summer. But Mr. Morsi, an avuncular type who liked to laugh and make jokes and digress into sharia law, seemed remarkably unconcerned. Perhaps he was just used to it by then.
Mr. Morsi had been president of Egypt for less than a year and one of his constant themes during the series of interviews was how slow the progress had been and how great expectations had become after the revolution.
Mr. Morsi was very much aware of how huge that gap had become. In the end, it seems to have destroyed his presidency. Mr. Morsi must have known all along that what happened Wednesday was a very real possibility. His grasp on power was tenuous.
I was told by an adviser that when Mr. Morsi was first elected in June, 2012, he didn’t even trust his own presidential guard. From his vantage point, the leftover apparatus of the regime of Hosni Mubarak had more power than Mr. Morsi did. There can’t be many presidents who openly admit they don’t control the army, police or the bureaucracy. But he did, often.
A former professor and political prisoner, he was not by nature a salesman, but despite everything, Mr. Morsi was upbeat about Egypt’s future.
The Mubarak legacy would take a while to overcome but he was convinced the country would have a solid economic and political system in the nottoo-distant future.
How long? “Five years,” he said. In the end, Mr. Morsi had only one.
But Mr. Morsi seemed incapable of understanding the depth of the anger and frustration that was growing outside the palace walls. Behind the discontent, he saw only “fingers” – a favourite term – of foreigners and the old regime.
In conversation, Mr. Morsi came across as smart and thoughtful but any question that suggested there was another side to the story – that the opposition might have legitimate issues – made him uneasy or dismissive.
He blamed the country’s economic problems on 32 families close to the old regime, an oversimplification that played to his domestic supporters but worried the foreign investors he was desperately trying to woo.
He thought worries about the new constitution’s failure to protect individual rights was pointless because sharia would take care of things. But by dismissing these concerns, he alienated many of the urban youth who been such an important force in the revolution.
When his own supporters brought charges against a local television comedian, he failed to understand why people were disgusted by the hypocrisy because these were the same libel laws that Mr. Mubarak had used as well.
While Mr. Morsi saw the remnant of the old regime everywhere, the opposition worried that he was just a front for a takeover of the country by the Muslim Brotherhood. Instead of addressing those concerns, he claimed the legitimacy – one of his favourite words – of an election he had just barely won.
In Cairo, you often heard people say that Mr. Morsi wasn’t the president of Egypt, he was just the president of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In the end that was one of his biggest problems: He assumed being elected was enough. I have rarely been in the presence of a politician who seemed so utterly apolitical. He didn’t just lack charisma. He seemed to lack that internal engine that drives people to power and the mechanism that determines the way power is directed.
He would have been an unlikely mayor of a small town let alone president of a country with close to 90 million people and enormous problems. But for Mr. Morsi, political legitimacy was derived from the ballot box alone as if being elected made you a leader. That’s not even true if you have some control over the government and, for someone in Mr. Morsi’s position, it suggested unpardonable naivete.
Watching the announcement of the military takeover, I was reminded of something Mr. Morsi said to me early in our first interview. Freedom, he said, could not be easily digested in Egypt. Perhaps he meant the revolution itself. In any case, whatever it is that happened seems to have swallowed him instead.
5. Egyptian democracy trampled with Morsi
Army has muscled out a man and a party that have won a total of eight elections
By Haroon Siddiqui, member of the editorial board, Toronto Star, July 4, 2013
Two blocks from the large, noisy, happy Pride parade on Sunday, there was, at Queen’s Park, a relatively small, noisy, angry protest by Canadian Egyptians. Coinciding with mass demonstrations across Egypt for and against Mohammed Morsi, the Toronto crowd was in solidarity with those who wanted the Muslim Brotherhood president gone, gone.
They carried such placards as, “Down with the fascist Muslim Brotherhood,” “Down with the fascist regime,” “Morsi the terrorist,” “Morsi the dictator” and “Egypt and Morsi don’t mix.”
Their slogans and speeches, mostly in Arabic, accused him of establishing a “theocracy” and “spreading hate and fascism.”
They had advice for America as well. “Obama: Stop supporting radical and fascist Morsi.”
The unrest in Egypt — civil war, really, between elected and unelected forces — has the Arab world’s largest nation imploding. The powerful army, ever alert to using chaos to fortify its power and perks, has moved in.
This is worse than the 1952 coup when the army toppled a debauched king. Now it has muscled out a president elected just last year in a free and fair election, and along with him, his Muslim Brotherhood and its allies who won a total of eight elections — two referenda, two rounds each for the two houses of parliament and two rounds of the presidential contest in the last two years.
It used to be said that “Islamists” could not be trusted with democracy. It turns out that the “secular forces,” both liberal and illiberal, cannot stomach electoral defeats and resort to street power to overturn the outcome of elections.
This development sets the process of democratization in Egypt back for an unknown length of time. It could unleash bitterness and forces whose frightening impact can only be guessed at.
We do know what followed the Algerian army’s 1993 toppling of elected Islamists, and also the 2006 refusal of Israel, Canada and others to accept the electoral victory of Hamas. In Algeria, a decadelong civil war ensued, killing about 100,000. In Gaza, Hamas got stronger, as did its supporters, including Iran.
A nation in as a historic a transition as Egypt needed a Nelson Mandela to unite a people to move forward. Morsi was clearly not that man.
Utterly uninspiring, he could not even hold his own cabinet and government intact.
He failed to fix the day-to-day mechanics of life — there’s no law and order; electricity and gas are in short supply; unemployment and inflation are high; tourism is dead; the economy is in a tailspin.
He failed to protect Coptic Christian and Shiite Muslim minorities. Yet he is not entirely to blame. He inherited a tattered economy and no functioning government, with only the army calling the shots, along with the fulool, powerful remnants of the ancient regime — the army, a vast empire of army-controlled public enterprises, plus the Hosni Mubarak-era judiciary, crony capitalists and the media.
The highest court dismissed the parliament, where the Islamists had a clear majority. That left only the upper house. Last month, the court ruled against that as well. It also deemed a parliamentary panel that drafted the constitution as flawed.
The opposition initially did agree to that 100-member panel, which had only 32 members of the Brotherhood. But when things didn’t go its way, the opposition resorted to boycotts. It called the panel’s final document flawed, which it was. But it was approved in a referendum in December.
One major flaw is that the constitution conceded too much power to the army. Yet here are the anti-Morsi forces cheering on the army’s sabotaging of democracy, however inefficient.
Their animus for the Brotherhood is matched only by that of the monarchs in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which fear the possible impact of such grassroots organizations on their own undemocratic rule.
The crisis in Egypt shows the price paid by Barack Obama’s dithering. He failed to help the nascent democracy and its sinking economy, while continuing the annual American funding of $1.3 billion for the Egyptian army.
The International Monetary Fund — an unpopular institution in Egypt ever since its 1977 aid package removing food subsidies led to widespread riots — also failed to come through.
Morsi was a failure and clearly contributed to his own downfall. But his ineptitude was not the only reason he was toppled and replaced by the head of the constitutional court that helped undermine him.
6. Inside the Egyptian military
By Graeme Bannerman, Middle East Institute, February 9, 2011
If the current crisis in Egypt is to be resolved peacefully, the Egyptian military will play a central role. Few, if any outside the Egyptian armed forces, however, truly understand the Egyptian military. The following is an attempt to begin the process of better understanding this crucial institution.
The Egyptian army is very different from the American army. The Egyptian army is an institution — largely self-sustained through enterprises such as farms, factories, hospitals, and the like — with the dual purposes of defending the nation against external threats and preserving domestic stability. It considers itself the defenders of the Egyptian people, a view also widely shared in the society at large. It performs the function of a National Guard as well as that of a national army.
SEPARATION FROM EGYPTIAN SOCIETY
One is struck by the degree of separation between the army and Egyptian society as a whole. Members of the military live on cantonments and do not participate in the national political process. They cannot vote in elections.
Egyptians do not know the army. The Defense Minister, the Chief of Staff, and the commanding generals are not nationally known personalities. For example, several years ago I was sitting in the lobby of a Washington hotel with the Major General who commanded the Presidential Guard and six months later would be the Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Armed forces. Two Egyptian Ambassadors passed by and I had to introduce them to the general. They did not know him or even his name.
In Egypt, the Minister of Defense is also the Minister of Military Production. The armed forces produce many of their own essential goods and services. They own large farms and produce most commodities consumed by the army. They have bakeries, water bottling facilities, and clothing manufacturing factories. All of these are in addition to the military production factories. The logic of these operations is that it assures the military of essential supplies and insulates them from corruption in the private sector.
This industrial capacity also gives the military the ability to influence Egyptian society in ways not seen in other countries. Two years ago, riots occurred in the Delta over the manipulation of the supply of bread by private bakeries. The army was able to intervene and produce enough bread in its bakeries to meet short term popular demand which gave the government a peaceful window of opportunity to resolve the corruption issue. (Please note: The Egyptian Government supplies wheat to private bakeries at subsidized prices. The bakeries are to use this wheat to make bread for the poor. Some bakers in the Delta discovered that if they used this wheat to bake full-price bread instead, profits were much higher. The result was insufficient bread at subsidized prices.)
The armed forces also consider their farms and industrial facilities as a means to have a positive impact on the life of the Egyptian people. When young men are drafted into the army, they are evaluated. Some do not possess the skills and capabilities necessary to be a soldier. These individuals instead serve their required duty working at a military farm or factory, thus gaining valuable training and job skills that will help them make a living for the rest of their lives.
The Egyptian military also has a large social support structure to take care of its own. Service clubs provide officers a place to have social occasions such as wedding receptions and formal dinners at a price they could not afford in the private sector. By ordinary Egyptian standards, the perks are quite nice. They are modest, however, when compared to the new Egyptian business class and Western standards. Living standards in the military are good, but nowhere near that of Egyptian business élite.
THE NEW ARMY
Thirty years of military cooperation between Egypt and the United States in some ways has transformed the Egyptian military. Thirty years ago the officer corps was trained and educated in the Soviet bloc. Americans were viewed with suspicion, and as subverting Egyptian national interests. Being associated with Americans could be harmful to one’s career. Today, thousands of military officers have trained with Americans. They undergo the same human rights training as does the American military. They understand us and many have close personal friends in the American military. Americans officers and troops are no longer seen as threatening. Differences of policy are recognized, but these are issues to be discussed and not barriers to cooperation.
Despite its separation from the population as a whole, the Egyptian military is equally concerned about many of the same social trends that have caused the wave of popular discontent in Egypt. Egyptian officers openly express their displeasure with Egyptian police. They cannot accept the brutality unleashed on the civilian population they are supposed to protect. They take affront at the lack of training and discipline among the police. This feeling is longstanding and has not just developed over the last couple of years.
The Egyptian military has viewed with concern Egypt’s economic transformation during the last several years. On the one hand, as nationalists, members of the armed forces are proud that Egypt is developing its economy and entering the world market. On the other, many have doubts that the radical transformation of the Egyptian economy has benefited the Egyptian people. In the process of making the Egyptian economy more open, many Egyptians were harmed. The privatization of several hundred businesses resulted in the firing of thousands of employees, because bloated payrolls, while providing jobs, were economically unjustified. At the same time, again at the urging of the international community, government subsidies for a variety of essential commodities were reduced or eliminated. Therefore, the same people who were losing their jobs were also losing the social safety net that the government historically provided.
In stark comparison, the new Egyptian business class became richer and richer. Conspicuous consumption became the new standard of wealth. Gated communities and nicely watered golf courses sprang up in a land where millions of people have no regularly running water. The military leadership was concerned about what effect the increasing wealth disparity would have on the general population. This concern was clearly illustrated in the January cabinet reshuffle. All of the ministers who engineered Egypt’s economic transformation were removed.
The military will likely focus its attention on making certain that even the poorest Egyptians are able to get basic commodities. Disagreements could develop between the protestors and the military, if the military believes that continuing protests are causing great economic hardship for the Egyptian citizenry.
THE MILITARY LEADERSHIP
Outsiders really do not know the military leadership. Thus, all the current speculation related to the ongoing crisis is based on limited knowledge.
The most senior level of the military is the equivalent of the American World War II generation. Its officers fought in Egypt’s great wars: the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, the war of attrition and the 1973 war. Their entire lives have been devoted to the security and stability of Egypt. If they have personal ambitions, these are not openly displayed. They work long hours and expect others to work equally as hard. They are disciplined and professional. Order and structure are important to them. These are serious men who will not act precipitously. While listening to foreign views, they will not give in to foreign pressure and absolutely do not want to be seen as giving into foreign pressure. They are first and foremost Egyptian nationalists.
For a time, senior Egyptian military personnel worked closely with their counterparts in Soviet bloc countries. This relationship soured when the Soviet military overplayed its hand in Egypt, compelling Sadat to expel Soviet advisors from the country, despite the risk of compromising Egyptian military capabilities in the process. By contrast, the American military, well aware of the reasons for Soviet failure in Egypt, has been careful not to be seen as trying to control the Egyptian armed forces. The Americans respect Egyptian national sensitivities and have been largely successful in conveying this to the Egyptian military leadership.
Unlike the senior officers, the younger cadre of Egyptian officers does not share the same battlefield experience and has little or no recollection of the Soviet experience. They do know the American military and have trained with them. They know the United States and feel comfortable with Americans. As such, they are more willing than the senior officers to engage in wide ranging political discussions with their American counterparts. They are more comfortable being critical of American Middle East policy and do not consider this as being anti-American. They are above all Egyptian nationalists.
Military relations with the Muslim Brotherhood are strained. President Sadat was assassinated by Islamic fundamentalists within the military. Islamic terrorist attacks in the 1990’s were considered unacceptable to the military as a partially foreign-inspired assault upon Egypt. After the 1997 terrorist attack on tourists in Luxor, the military had to intervene to help reestablish civil order. General Intelligence Services under Omar Suleiman, however, was responsible for the crackdown on the Brotherhood that followed. The Brotherhood is still seen as a potential threat to civil order and, therefore needs to be watched.
THE CURRENT CRISIS
The Egyptian military only reluctantly intervenes in Egyptian domestic affairs. In the previous thirty-five years, they have interceded in internal affairs only three times — the 1977 IMF bread riots, the 1985 police recruit riots, and the 1997 terrorist attack in Luxor. Protecting civilians and restoring order were their primary objectives. In the context of the current situation, the military clearly faces more challenges than they ever have in the past. The violence of the last several weeks is beyond what anyone anticipated. They are balancing their desire for order and discipline with their duty to protect Egyptian civilians. The military will move cautiously, but firmly, with full awareness of their stabilizing role.
Political negotiations with the protestors and others over the future of Egypt will be in the hands of the Vice President and the Prime Minister. The military leadership will be informed and will keep a watchful eye on the negotiations. They are unlikely to be directly involved. Negotiating the details of the form of the future Government of Egypt is not their responsibility, but they do have a keen interest in it.