What To Make of the Military

Where will Egypt's military lead the country?

When ex-president Mubarak stepped down and handed the country to the military in exchange, presumably, for an unburdened retirement, Egypt essentially experienced an amicable military coup. The last time such an event occurred was in 1952 when the Egyptian military eventually installed the precursor to the three Egyptian dictators that have ruled the country since (Muhammad Naguib, president for a year and a half before resigning under accusations of sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood, followed by Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak), though a deja vu is unlikely. The Egyptian military is in a very interesting position in this crisis and it remains to be seen how, and for how long, the most respected institution handles leadership.

The military effectively has a foot in every possible camp; it is immensely popular with the Egyptian people, profited greatly from its connection with the old regime, and has a strong relationship with the American military and government. Of course, what any of that means and in what way the military will push the state is completely unknown. For a leaderless, organic popular uprising though, the ambiguity of the military is certainly welcomed:

The full implications of what amounts effectively to a military coup in the most populous and pivotal Arab state are not yet clear. Egyptians do not yet know which soldiers will sit on the new ruling council, or what their plan of action is. But one of the ironies of this revolution is that for the leaderless, many-stranded protest movement, which united solely in wishing to rid their country of Mr Mubarak and in the aim of forging a real democracy, a period of military rule appears in many ways the best possible outcome…

The last time Egypt’s army took over, in 1952, it abolished pluralist democracy and installed the strongman system that Mr Mubarak inherited. But Egypt’s people, immensely bolstered by the success of their revolution, with its stunning exercise of peaceful power by great masses of citizens, appear broadly confident that this experience will not be repeated. What they expect, and appear determined to fight for, is a proper democracy.

Photo from The Lede

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