Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Egypt and Democracy: The Problem with Military Rule

A Tunisian Solution for Egypt’s Military: Why Egypt's Military Will Not Be Able To Govern

On Tunisia's Military:

This was a hedge against the French, who retained some influence over the police after Tunisian independence. They supplied and trained the security and intelligence forces, and even helped the government suppress an uprising in 1955. U.S. involvement with the military, Ben Ali supposed, would prevent the French from having a monopoly of influence over his country’s means of coercion. At the same time, it meant that the army, which already had little loyalty to Ben Ali and no economic interest in maintaining his regime, became the one well-trained and highly professional force in the country.

The military was poorly paid, under staffed, underfunded and given little attention by the Ben Ali regime that did not include the general officers and commanders in the patronage of the regime. However, in the end, it was the interaction and training with US forces that had the most influence, that kept the Tunisian military from firing on the people, but, instead turned their guns on the police and intelligence forces.

By contrast, the Egyptian military, while viewed in some form of "mythic heroics" by the people on the square, are literally part of the military regime that has been governing Egypt all along. As noted previously, they have had training and interaction with US forces and were viewed as performing fairly well in the '91 Gulf War. However, later interaction reported by some were that the officers were somewhat lazy and desultory towards their commands, that it was the NCOs that seemed much more professional.

Egypt's military, per this report, has a bloated officers' corp and has been feeding off of patronage from Mubarek's regime. The military powers that be in Egypt had even restricted important communication equipment normally used for coordination on tanks, APCs and military air craft in order to prevent inter-officer coordination as well as communication with other nations' military.

From an historical stand point, the military obviously doesn't trust either it's junior officer corp or the rank and file and we know why. Every coup in the country has been a military coup. From 1952 to the assassination of Sadat that came out of the Military Technical College, the Egyptian military has been the root of all violent overthrows.

What the military will do to remain in power:

For its part, the military will likely try to maintain power and justify crackdowns by appealing to the need for order; steer a fellow traveler into the presidency, such as Amr Moussa, an Egyptian diplomat and the current secretary-general of the Arab League, or the current prime minister and a former general, Ahmad Shafiq; limit constitutional changes aimed at achieving a more democratic balance of power between the executive and legislative branches; and orchestrate economic show trials.

The trials and the "reshuffling of ministers" we are already seeing. The trials seem to be a response to popular sentiment that is probably correct to assume that some people have been gorging themselves at the public trough. The problem may be how wide and how just these prosecutions may actually be. As with all revolutions, the innocent (or mostly innocent) often go down with the guilty. I this case, as in Russia that had a significant flight of foreign investment capital as Putin tried to eliminate his opposition by putting them on trial for fraud and other alleged abuses, so foreign investors are already reconsidering investment in Egypt.

However, the military's own internal issues may actually determine its inability to rule, even for six months:

The military high command may try to counter the lack of investment by calling for renewed economic nationalism, but that will condemn Egypt to economic stagnation, similar to that which it experienced in the mid-1960s.
In other words, in the interest of protecting their interests, the military is likely to condemn Egypt to the misery of a centrally controlled economy or something very close to it. In a world with growing food and fuel prices, it is tantamount to self-destruction.

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