The myth of military rule
Hysterics about the country languishing under military dictatorship are overblown and unhelpful, writes Galal Nassar
The decree by President Mohamed Mursi on Sunday, reinstating the People's Assembly, opened a can of worms. The decree, which reversed a ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court, is likely to have far-reaching ramifications for the entire political scene as well as the status of Egypt's military institutions.
Some revolutionaries claim that the army has been ruling Egypt since 1952, a contention that I find hard to endorse. Granted, we've had a dictatorship, a one party system, and presidents who were not exactly elected. But we've never had military rule in the manner seen in Latin America or Africa. Ours was a mix between civilian rule and military rule, with a bit of police state thrown in.
This is the same argument my esteemed colleague, political analyst Amr El-Shobaki, made in an article in Al-Masry Al-Youm a week ago. He said that Egypt was not under military rule in the past 60 years, although the personal whims of presidents Gamal Abdel-Nasser, Anwar El-Sadat and Mubarak shaped the country's policies.
So when people tell me that we are done with military rule now that Mohamed Mursi is president, I find myself a bit sceptical. What I see today is a takeover by a rightwing that is more conservative than anything we've seen in the past. And it is my fear that the new rightwing is going to try to undermine the hard-won achievements of this country, the achievements made through two centuries of revolution, of which the January 2011 Revolution is only the latest.
What we have in this country is a climate of counter-revolution disguised under the colourful flags of the Arab Spring. What we have is the fruits of diligent work by secret agents and intelligence services, hoping to do the same in other parts of the world. And my fear is that the January Revolution will fall into this trap, which is likely to happen if tyranny and corruption are allowed to continue.
Throughout the transitional phase, the civilian and military officials who ran this country dared not challenge the interests of those involved in tyranny and corruption. No one dared to challenge the sleeping cells that awoke all of a sudden to wreck the country. As a result, an unholy alliance of civilians, thugs, businessmen, and former policemen has become a major player in the affairs of the nation.
People say that we've had military rule for 60 years. If so, why hasn't the military trained the nation to act as a standby army, if only to defend their country and their borders? Why haven't the economy and culture being subjugated to military means? Something in this sort happened perhaps until 1973. But is this true anymore?
Let me give you two examples of what I think of as military rule: Sparta and Israel. In Sparta, children were trained to become soldiers, and the only way of advancement was through military prowess.
Weak infants were allowed to die at birth. The entire legal, educational and political system was based on military service. And the military class thought of itself as superior to the other classes of society. Sparta didn't have the culture Athens had, or the arts, or the humanism. War was its only claim to fame.
In Israel, the state has been turned into an army barracks. Everyone is under arms and everyone is an army reservist. Democracy is only a façade, whereas the core of the state philosophy is all about war. Israel's discourse may be about the need for defence, but its true goal is expansion. Israel's rhetoric is about humanism, but its practices lean towards genocide.
In Israel, the entire economy is geared towards war, towards reinforcing the militarisation of the nation. Israel uses foreign aid, money and immigrants to invest in advanced industries, to make rockets, and to develop electronic industries with a military twist. In fact, Israel used the technology developed by Egypt's scientist Ahmed Zewail to enhance the performance of its rockets. The militarisation of society is the main goal of the Zionist economy.
Israel believes in preventive war, in lightning war, in grabbing land from the Palestinians, stealing water from the rivers of its neighbours, all to cover the expenses of its continual militarisation.
Shimon Peres once said that Israel needs foreign friends to boost its military power just as it needs military power to boost its friendships. And David Ben-Gurion was clear that Israel's defence and foreign relations were inextricably intertwined.
These are two models of the military state. Does either of these remind you of Egypt?
Since the 1952 Revolution, Egypt has gone through two phases. The first phase embodies the aspirations of the oppressed at home and abroad. In the Arab world, Africa, Asia and Latin America, a social and economic liberation model took root in the 1950s and 60s. The rulers may have been from the military, but the goals and aspirations were those of the people.
Things changed in the second phase, when our leaders gave in to the Americans, and when a growing class of racketeers and speculators were allowed to sap the wealth of the nation.
Now we are waiting for a new republic to emerge. Will Mursi be able to show us the way forward? Will he rise above the choir of twisted interests and self-promoting ideologues? Will he side with the poor and restore the nation's independent decision making? Will he be able to formulate a third republic, one that is free of subservience and Zionist influences?
Don't be fooled by appearances. It does not matter what the president wears. Let him wear khakis, long robes, or modern suits. Let him wear a hat, a turban, or a cap. When it comes to true intentions, appearances don't matter, nor does the profession. What matter are the principles, and the company the president keeps.
Egypt is not a military society, even if it had to fight to keep off aggressors. We had a real problem with the police, which we still have to address. We had a problem with the state of emergency. But we don't have a problem with the army.
We've had corruption and tyranny in this country, but it was more of a mix between the civilian, the military and the police. So let's not single out the army for blame while building the new republic.