Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egypt.... the coup ... The bill?

Up until now, President Mubarak has enjoyed the support of the armed forces. He was, after all, a career air force officer suddenly catapulted to the presidency when Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981. But if these protests continue and intensify there are bound to be senior voices within the military tempted to urge him to stand down. -  BBC News
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Lieutenant colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser, who overthrew King Farouk, was an Egyptian army officer. Anwar El Sadat, who succeeded Nasser, was a military officer, who earlier had joined Nasser in overthrowing Farouk. Hosni Mubarak, an air force general, succeeded Sadat on his assassination.

Therefore it would be reasonable to suppose that Mubarak's successor will be a military officer too.

The question would be: what kind of a military officer, what rank?

As a general rule of thumb, the higher ranking the officer, the more conservative the coup.

Notice that Nasser was a Lt. Col, when he removed Farouk, so was Lybia's Muammar al-Gaddafi, when he took power from King Idris, and of course Venezuela's Hugo Chávez was a paratroop colonel, when he attempted his coup d'etat.  American backed generals tried unsuccessfully to overthrow Chávez, but were not supported by the lower ranking officers. Lower ranking officer's coups are nationalist revolutionaries, higher ranking officers like Chile's Pinochet tend to act under American supervision.

In the Egyptian case, the higher ranking officers are probably firmly in the US pocket, but among the colonels, majors and captains there may be men that are of the nationalistic mode of Nasser and that are chafing at Egypt's enabling Israel in league with American interests.

The key to this question may very well be something as simple as the wives of colonels and majors whose husbands are not making as good salaries as the husbands of their sisters working in the private sector. These are men who have direct command over the troops... the fat generals sit in their offices raking in the graft. Imagine the bedroom scenes after family dinners... many a coup d'etat has begun there.
Probably the first move to oust Mubarak would come from senior officers, eager to execute a Lampedusian, "change everything in order to change nothing" maneuver and thus keep American military aid in place. If this doesn't satisfy the masses in the street, than a group of younger officers, more in touch with popular feeling, might make their move. The question then would be if those younger officers would be interested in some sort of "national reconciliation" with the Muslim Brotherhood, in which case America's whole foreign policy in the Middle East gets flushed down the Nile.

The colonel becomes a general, the major becomes a colonel and their wives are happy, they are now the stars of the family dinners, the ones who can fix fat state contracts. They have to cut out wine and wear a hijab and pray five times a day? Paris vaut bien une messe. DS


Anonymous said...

And what if the Muslim Brotherhood doesn't want power, and all the unpleasant surprises and confrontations with other countries to come, and has decided not to let them play and obsess about the Islamist card?

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

They will take power from the ground up. The minute they are allowed above ground and can assemble and speak freely without being imprisoned and tortured they will be the defacto power in Egypt, as they have both organization and a mass democratic base... nobody else does.

Anonymous said...

There are - of all things - Spanish and Polish precedents of the clergy wielding its power from the sidelines.

This allows them to accomplish their aims without getting hung for mishaps. They know that many in the West are very wary of Islamist governments.

If they are wise and love their country, they may well prefer for Egypt to first modernize and become prosperous rather than getting bogged down in quarrels with neighbours. Then, at a later date, the feuds can resumed, with Egypt in a much stronger position.