Monday, February 14, 2011
Egypt: "Essentially what occurred was a palace coup."
By LTC Joseph C. Myers
President Obama's remarks about Egypt were somewhat detached from the reality of the situation, trying to seize an event and give it historical significance, applying the notion that this was some historical moment of "freedom." Essentially what occurred was a palace coup. Mubarak was pushed out by the military and the end result is that a military "junta" has now assumed control of the government of Egypt. It remains to be seen if this is a moment for freedom or democracy.
The Egyptian military leadership is an oligarchy, and how much they will allow constitutional changes for greater democratic space is yet to be seen. So far they have suspended the Egyptian constitution and dissolved the parliament and will plan for elections in six months. For sure they will not want the Muslim Brotherhood to have much if any governing role; if they do, that will begin to put Egypt on a slow track to an Islamist state and directly impact their stakeholder interests.
While I can take short term comfort in the fact the military is maintaining order and not allowing Egypt to devolve into chaos, and our national security pundits are breathing a sigh of relief that the Army and military remain our "friends," I have also seen the rapid impacts revolutionary changes and elections can have on military institutions as well.
Venezuela and Argentina both were closely aligned to the US and to the US military until elections changed all of that, in some cases almost overnight.
Chavez has over the years converted his military into a sycophantic, political crony institution and pushed out any Americanophiles, institutionalizing anti-Americanism and cozying up to Iran and China.
Kirchner appointed a junior and politically loyal (to him) officer to be the Army commander who essentially decapitated the senior military leadership, erased 3 years of my efforts and programs in the Military Group and key institutional relations, and began to usher in a new generation of military leaders not aligned to the US, to Southcom, and to our War Colleges.
...and of course there is the example of Iran.
So a lot rides on the Egyptian military and Army. Can they maintain praetorian control of the political transition and institutions, as does the Turkish Army? Or do they allow openings that over time will erode their authority and spell their ultimate demise as an oligarchy and ally of the US?
A major challenge I see is that the rank and file Egyptian soldier is recruited from the same social terrain as is the Muslim Brotherhood and from areas where the Brotherhood enjoys great popularity, and I presume fit the same profile and Islamic orientation that the polls in Egypt have indicated and the pundits have been discussing.