What, Who To Watch After Mubarak

What, Who To Watch After Mubarak

Anthony Cordesman looms as one of the wisest and best informed experts on those crucial places that stretch from Morocco to Afghanistan, especially in terms of their strategic and military issues. From his perch at the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington, he pours out an amazing quantity of top-notch analysis about passing events and the long-term structural issues that govern the conduct of nations. In the following commentary, he offers a trenchant analysis of the Egyptian military and security forces, what they may have to gain or lose and who to watch.

He titled it: “If Mubarak Leaves: The Role of the U.S. Military:”

It is tempting to rush to judgment about the role the Egyptian military will play if Mubarak really does leave. The truth is that even the senior military now at the top of the power structure under Mubarak almost certainly have no clear idea of what happens next, and it will be days before anyone know how well the transition will function, who goes and who stays, and how stable the result really is.

There are, however, some broad things than can be said about the Egyptian military. There is no ONE military, and a careful distinction needs to be made between the real military that total around 470,000 personnel, and are under the Ministry of Defense. Others in uniform include the 325,000 personnel in the Central Security Services and 60,000 in National Guard, that are under the Ministry of the Interior. These latter forces are the primary source of the oppression documented in the annual US State Department human rights report, and of the growing authoritarianism and abuses that Egyptians are now protesting.

While the Egyptian military may well be the ultimate power brokers in a time of major political upheaval, they also are a military force and not — as is the case in Algeria — the de facto government. They do not dominate the economy or civil government, and most — like other Egyptians — have been subject to surveillance by Egypt’s oppressive intelligence services. These services themselves present real question about Egypt’s future power structure.

The key element include the Mukhabarat al-Aama Al-Mukhabarat al-‘Ammah (General Intelligence and Security Service); Mukhabarat el-Khabeya (Military Intelligence Service); Mubahath el-Dawla; (General Directorate of State Security Investigations) and Jihaz Amn al Daoula (State Security Service). They also are as divided as the military security services. General Intelligence reports to the presidency; Military Intelligence to the Ministry of Defense; and the General Directorate for State Security Investigations is directly controlled by the Minister of Interior.

More broadly, the Egyptian military are not an isolated elite. They are a citizen army. Most actual soldiers are conscript and many junior officers are graduates who serve short tours or who join the military because it is the only job available. Mid level officers are usually career professional that are not part of the political side of the military. They have won considerable public respect and support over the years, but they also have lost status as a new class of businessmen and profiteers has acquired great wealth and the disparities income have growth. Most can now buy less by way of housing, education for the children, and the key elements of middle class living than in the past.

Some do have every reason to be loyal to the status quo. There are significant numbers of retired senor military officers in Mubarak’s inner circle who have been given sinecures and senior posts in the civil government and state industries, and who will want to continue to benefit from the regime. But the bulk of even senior the officers who leave don’t enjoy these privileges. Moreover, the Egyptian military are military is stove-piped by branch and service, and most senior officers are in career paths that do not give them have special access to those who in Mubarak’s close circle. Those who do become part of Mubarak “loyalists” have acquired money and status, but the further even senior officers are outside the circle, the more they rely on their military pay. and the more reason they have to be loyal to the nation and not the leader.

These distinctions also help explain why most of military retain so much popular respect. It is also important to understand that democracy is less important to most Egyptians than material benefits, jobs, decent education, effective government services, ending corruption and favoritism, and emphasizing the concept of justice in ways that provide security and honest police and courts. People aren’t looking for a vote as much as they want to stop the economic, political and social injustice — a search compounded by the fact Islam place so much emphasis on justice in every aspect of life and governance. The loudest and most Western voices in the square do not always speak for the Egyptian people, and practical compromise with around programs that provide justice and benefits may be easier for both the military and the people than some realize.

At the same time, the military’s top priority is to preserve the nation and maintain order and limit chaos or upheaval. They are far less likely to use torture or violence than the forces under Ministry of Interior as the entire command ethic of the professional military is the nation, not the leader, and military discipline puts real restraints on their actions. However, there also are real limits to their tolerance. They will not accept a breakdown of the government or economy. They will not accept paralysis or demonstrations that become violent, although they will not support a new wave of repression. Whomever is perceived as the most radically violent will tend to lose.

The good news is that Egyptians as a whole tend to be pragmatic and not violent. (And they have the best political jokes around.) There are, however, serious legal barriers that need to be addressed, that will make life difficult for both the military and the people unless pragmatism takes priority over formal legal constraints. If Mubarak resigns, the new government have just 60 days to hold an election. Its formal leader will come from a corrupt parliament. There will still be open-ended emergency laws that allow opened-ended abuses.

There also are senior military and ex-military in government and around Mubarak that occupy key posts and have a vested interest in blocking reform. These include top military and ex-military: Lieutenant-General Omar Suleiman, the former head of the military intelligence service and now Vice-President; Ahmed Shafik, a former air force commander and now Prime Minister , and Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the Defense Minister, the new deputy premier. they are all part of the Mubarak cadre. None are symbols of progress and change and all also have little real political experience, no knowledge of reform, and little experience in kind of effective civil governance and economic reform Egypt will now need.

Moreover, both the military and all of Egypt’s civil leaders will suffer from the legacy of a political system where any opposition has been suppressed and sidelined for some 30 years. No political parties have the level of experience in cooperation and governance to rapidly participate in an election or show they can govern. The largest opposition party, the Muslim Brotherhood, is led a by a gerontocracy and deeply divided between traditionalist and reformers, with extremists at the margins. The other parties are untried, although they have some bright intellectuals, and proven businessmen.

This is why Obama administration is right in trying to find a transition that will provide the time needed to make the changes that will allow an effective political process to emerge, suspend the emergency law and create a structure where people can run and campaign. It is seeking to persuade the regime may conclude t to accept a meaningful reform plan, in part because there is no way the regime can go back to the old system and a rigged September election could create a far worse crisis and a far higher prospect of lasting instability.

Moreover, regime change is only part of the story — for the military and the Egyptian people: No matter who emerges as the post-Mubarak leader, the economic and demographic pressures that have driven this uprising are going to remain for at least several years. This uprising takes place in the cauldron or world economic collapse. As in a disturbingly growing number of places throughout the world, in Egypt there are food spikes, fuel spikes, recession, a huge young population, weak job market, growing disparity of income. The UN has declared major food shortages throughout the world, and the future is uncertain — particularly given the drought in China. In Egypt, many live pretty to subsistence. If it were not for food aid and subsidies they wouldn’t survive at all. For the rest, there are few new jobs here that offer the growing jobless population any employment, much less jobs with status.

This may well mean that whatever new government comes to power has less than a 50 percent chance of surviving for two years. Patience is an Egyptian virtue, but the Egyptian people (and the military) are unlikely to tolerate failed politics, failed governance, and token progress. This, in turn, poses a long-term challenge for the US that goes far beyond who in the military has power in the first phase of change following Mubarak’s departure. Egypt controls a critical global trade route in the Suez Canal. The security of the Canal and its pipeline have a major impact on energy prices and the world economy. Egypt is key to the Arab-Israeli peace and stability in the region, US military overflights and staging, and the struggle against extremism. In short, Egypt is a vital US national security interest — in fact, a far more vital interest than Afghanistan or Pakistan.

Join the Conversation

Who has the most guns and who is willing to use them, even against other Egyptians?

While I am glad to see democracy coming to Egypt and it has been far to long with Mubarak and the “Emergency Law of 1958″ in power. This type of radical change in government has bad JuJu written all over it. This is a major power in the Middle East with a substantial military force in place who has alot of peace/defense agreements with neighbors. Even if a government is formed that is not outright hostile to US/Israel, you can bet that the Muslim Brotherhood and other radicals will gain seats in the new government. While not troubling at first, with the financial and military support of Iran(and our inability to stop it) what is to stop Egypt from becoming another Lebanon with a terrorist group as its head. This would be quite troubling considering the military equipment and know how they have received from the US over the years. Hopefully the Egyptian military will do what Turkey’s did for years and be the guardian of a SECULAR government. Good Luck and I am glad to see Egyptians taking a grasp on their future and moving in the right direction.

Democracy yea sure, we just spent 40 years propping up their military dictatorship, funding their torture centers and paying for it when their citizens flew planes into our buildings killing thousands of Americans. And now we are doing our level best to keep the same thieving clique in power. Yea sure we ant democracy — you must be simple.

Mubarak is gone.

The game is on.

Let’s see — little Barry Obama did nothing when his iranian supreme leader an American enemy were shooting women in the streets.

But now that his Muslim brotherhood has a chance he couldn’t wait to force out a nominal American and israel Allie

Need more colonialism now!

Islam is Not compatible with democracy.

We are the only reason their military isn’t using ancient Soviet hardware. Let the presence of those carriers show “don’t try anything.”

Welcome to the Middle East. A new regime will be with you shortly, don’t expect any improvements. Thank you and have a nice day.

What would they “try”, and what do you think we could do to stop “it” without making things worse?

What we are seeing is the final acts of the Cold war, just as the Soviet union wasn’t economically strong enough to retain it’s satellites the US is losing the string of dictatorships it has run in the Middle East. Just as the Russians are struggling with the legacy of their secret services we will spend the following decades trying to gain control over our military industrial complex, and the acts of people like bin Laden who see the core weakness.

In 50 years when they look back at the cold war and the crippling damage it did to both the USSR and the American empire the clear winner will be the Chinese.

Sarah Goldstein or Sarah Löwenthal?

To the poster “Oblat” :


Part 1 / 3

It’s absolutely possible that the U.S.A. will soon end up in the same ditch as the U.S.S.R., because of a failed Economy and too much military spending (war bills included), and descend into chaos, too, with all sorts of local Mafias running each State separately, thanks to their criminal connections to the U.S. Military. To which I can only say: POOR COPS , in the U.S.A. and abroad (because of the massive smuggling of sophisticated arms which ensues then) ! You know what happened to the nuclear arsenal of the former, highly centralized U.S.S.R.: What will happen to the U.S.A.‘s highly centralized nuclear arsenal then?

Will the U.S.A. become the first country to sell nukes to Mr. Bin Laden?


Part 2 / 3

But there’s still one big difference left between these two former Super-Powers / peoples: At least the former and present Soviet / Russian leaders can rely relatively comfortably on the strict discipline and “loyalty” of their population and soldiers (you can also call it innate, typically Slavic submissiveness) not to experience another Red October in the near future.

(Continued. Mr. Clark: Today I only want my 2.500 characters per post which you promised, tomorrow I will want another Red October!!!)

Part 3 / 3

But in the U.S.A., you know full well what’s the main drive for young, aggressive, conscience-less men to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces and to kill foreigners: Money! And when that special economical incentive disappears in the whole country, you have a wholly different situation then.

Then there are also increasingly many mutilated veterans in the streets, from Vietnam to Iraq I to “G.W.O.T.” (because modern wars maim more than they kill), who are completely dependant on the State for their survival, and who WILL make themselves heard in times of unrest, even if only their heads are still left of them!

Note: All these scenarios dispense ENTIRELY the presence or absence of “China”.

And yet all this can still be avoided so easily, even right now, with a bit of common sense…

To the poster “mike j”


The poster “William C.” wrote: “We are the only reason their military isn’t using ancient Soviet hardware. Let the presence of those carriers show ‘don’t try anything’.”

Then you wrote: “What would they ‘try’, and what do you think we could do to stop ‘it’ without making things worse?”


Destroy some pyramids to keep those jubilant Arabs calm, serene, and in tune with Washington!

One thing for sure, the Muslim Brother don’t want peace, nor do Hammas, Nor alquaeda, nor the Taliban. thay all want POWER, and will do what they can to GET POWER! watch their actions, ignore their lips!

Right On Old Commander

You are right, Egypt is a vital US national security interest — in fact, a far more vital interest than Afghanistan or Pakistan.


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