Wednesday, November 23, 2011


"Some thoughts, as we watch developments, on the key questions or mysteries facing Egypt in this uncertain moment:

What is the military's objective here? The ruling generals played their hand a few weeks earlier, demanding legal guarantees of their own independence and power in any new system. The military clearly wants elections to go forward so there can be a choreographed transitional process that placates the public without diminishing military power. So why allow violence to spiral out of control for four days? The military certainly has the muscle to step between the demonstrators and the police. No one has offered a compelling explanation for why the military hasn't stopped the fighting in Tahrir. Many observers posit that the military simply can't figure out what it wants and isn't competent enough to enforce minimal order.

Who controls the police? Egypt's detested police were never disbanded or held to account, including the secret police, which were simply renamed "homeland security" instead of "state security." On Saturday, they sparked Cairo's still-ongoing fight by attacking a tiny group of holdover demonstrators who stayed overnight in Tahrir, beating them gratuitously even by Egyptian standards. Were they out of control, bent on revenge after their humiliating rout at the hand of revolutionaries in January? Were they intentionally trying to create problems for their rivals in the military? Or were they acting on orders from Egypt's military rulers, who appear to approve of police brutality but don't want to be the ones in the front hurting civilians? No one has a clear answer to this very important question".

Thanassis Cambanis, "6 Key Questions on Egypt's Escalating Violence." The Atlantic.22 November 2011, in

"The proximate cause for the current confrontations in Cairo -- and now it seems elsewhere around the country -- is the result of trigger-happy security forces. They presumably thought that clearing Tahrir Square of a few hundred protesters would be an easy win and help re-establish their authority. Yet even though some lowly CSF troopers and military policemen are directly responsible for the violence engulfing central Cairo, it's the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) that is clearly at fault for creating an environment that made the ongoing clashes inevitable.

Over the past nine months, SCAF's attempt at governing has faltered at every conceivable step, alienating former allies and laying the ground for the current unrest. SCAF chairman Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi and his officers have never offered Egyptians a political horizon, never empowered civilian ministers, and favored fleeting tactical agreements with political groups over serious negotiations. That's how you get stunning ironies like the 26-year-old Asmaa Mahfouz -- a prominent activist -- dragged before a military tribunal for merely insulting Tantawi and the SCAF, while Mubarak regime stalwarts like former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly, a man responsible for actually killing Egyptians, goes before civilian judges who are suspected of being sympathetic to him.

Reservations about the SCAF's true intentions were further reinforced with their efforts to prejudice the content of Egypt's new constitution before the drafting process had even begun. It embraced a series of supra-constitutional principles designed to carve out an influential place for the armed forces in fashion similar to the privileges that Turkey's military enjoyed until recently. The idea was actually the brainchild of civilians such as Judge Hisham Bastawisi -- an ostensible liberal who was one of the first people to outline an enduring political role for the military -- and it is unclear whether he was working with the SCAF, or whether the military simply embraced the ideas floating around in the public debate that best suited their interests. Regardless, there can be no democracy in Egypt without civilian control of the armed forces. As to precedent, all the claims that the Turkish military prepared the ground for Turkey's transition to democracy through repression, forcing Islamists to moderate, run counter to both logic and history".

Steven Cook, "Revolution 2.0." Foreign Policy. 22 November 2011, in

Judging on the face of it, and merely the results in loss of life in the past five days, as well as their overall performance in the past few months, the Egyptian military must go down in the history of that country as the most incompetent government since the overthrow of the Monarchy almost sixty years ago in July 1952. As Mr. Cambanis, notes the military au fond could quite easily have cleared the streets of the capital of the rabble to be found in the same if it so wished. Sans such a wish, one is hard put to imagine what possible purpose was served by having the remnants of the Egyptian police in the capital, a force which was hard hit by the uprising in January-February of this year to endeavor by themselves to clear Tahrir Square this week-end just past. Indeed, it would appear to any intelligent observer that ANY attempt by the police, by themselves, with no overt backing by the army to clear the square was madness. And so it proved with a series of mini-replays of the see-saw struggles of earlier this year. With much the same result: protesters one, police nothing. Almost every move that the military has made in the political realm in the past few months has been a maladroit one. From floating a ballon d'essai about retaining special powers under any new constitution, which after the predictable protests was quietly withdrawn, to being unable to control the countries borders properly (in the Sinai peninsula), to being unwilling to conclude an agreement with the International Monetary Fund for purposes of securing a credit line. What we seem to have is a level of incompetence which is only explainable by a deliberate policy of pire ca va, mieux ca est. Unfortunately, given the rather less than intelligent looking faces that one sees on the chiefs of Egypt's military, and the fact that all of them were appointed by ex-President Mubarak, one can only conclude that their stupidity is deliberate rather than contrived. Be that as it may, one is at this point rather pessimistic about the ability of the current military government to keep a lid upon the situation, especially in Cairo and Alexandria. With I for one, afraid that at this point, short of a major and now, bloody crackdown, the time is not far off, when a Hobbesian omnium bellum contra omnes might indeed come to pass. With a complete collapse of government authority all over the country. A situation tailor-made to be taken advantage of by Muslim extremists with dangerous consequences for Egypt's internal and external position.


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