Will of the Egyptian people: What does the military really want?

The old maxim, “the enemy of our enemy is our friend” applies directly to regional interests in Egypt.

July 10, 2013 23:45
2 minute read.
A girl with the colours of the Egyptian flag and the word "leave" painted on her face

girl in egypt protests 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Democracy don’t rule the world/you better get that through your head/ The world is run by violence/but I guess that’s better left unsaid – Bob Dylan

Anyone who studies Arab power politics learns quickly that it’s a convoluted, rigid and bureaucratic mess, heavily steeped in strict rules and run by military men who have climbed the ranks by protecting their higher-ups.

To think that the Egyptian military had “the will of the people” in mind with regard to Mohamed Morsi’s ouster is to neglect its influence, which has been firmly in place for the past 60 years. While expressing “delight” with the departure of the Muslim Brotherhood, a heavily skeptical Daniel Pipes argued last Thursday that “the incompetent and greedy military leadership, which viciously ruled Egypt from behind the scenes between 1952 and 2012, is back in charge.”

The Egyptian military reluctantly accepted the Muslim Brotherhood’s ascension to power after the country’s first free elections last year. But perhaps this was a ruse all along, with the real intent being to use the genuine enthusiasm and euphoria of Egyptian protesters to wrestle itself back into power. Egypt clearly suffered during Morsi’s first year in office, as he instituted an Islamist agenda and neglected rampant unemployment.

The protesters have said publicly that they asked the military to overthrow Morsi for their benefit. But to believe the military agreed with pure intentions is highly naive. Stability is the rule of the land, particularly in Egypt, ever since the overthrow of King Farouk in 1952.

Why else did these mostly secular dictators like Nasser, Sadat and then Mubarak stay in power for as long as they did? The military and police are deeply entrenched in Egyptian politics, a fact that won’t change any time soon, much to the dismay of brave protesters in the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and elsewhere demanding real democratic change. Their dream of achieving a truly pluralistic country if a long time off.

As Hazem Kandil wrote in Solders, Spies and Statesman, “an autocrat like Mubarak did little more than follow the dotted line marked by his predecessor.

He simply extended and reinforced the three trends set in place when he assumed office in 1981: the marginalization of the military, the empowerment of the security force, and the increased reliance on a state-nurtured capitalist class to run the country... he was a stabilizer not an innovator.... [A]fter all is said and done, the sudden (and maybe temporary) collapse of the regime in 2011 was the cumulative result of six decades of power struggles within the ruling coalition.”

A pluralistic Egypt is a lofty ideal, but for now, we must continue allying ourselves with a democratically challenged, albeit “stable” Egyptian army, which will preserve our regional interests. This includes maintaining the Camp David Accords with Israel, and border protection in the Sinai, and the Suez Canal.

The old maxim, “the enemy of our enemy is our friend” applies directly to regional interests in Egypt.

The author is a reporter on topics pertaining to security and diplomacy issues. His current beat is at the UN.

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