While the Obama administration dithers over whether the Egyptian regime-change operation constitutes a coup or not, one thing is certain: The Egyptian people are suffering under tyranny. After all, that’s what military rule is: tyranny.
Our American ancestors understood this. That’s why they steadfastly opposed standing armies. They understood that standing armies constituted a grave threat to the freedom and well-being of a society. That’s why the American people lived without standing armies for more than a century of our nation’s existence.
President Eisenhower alluded to this phenomenon in his Farewell Address to the American people in 1960. He told them that the vast military-industrial complex, which was then new to American life, constituted a serious danger to America’s democratic processes.
The principles that underlay the deep antipathy that our Founding Fathers had toward standing armies didn’t apply, of course, only to the United States. Neither did Eisenhower’s warnings. They apply to every nation on earth, including Egypt.
In their Arab Spring the Egyptian people chose to ignore these admonitions and warnings. For some 30 years, they had been living under a brutal and tyrannical military regime, one headed by a military general, Hosni Mubarak. This military tyranny was characterized by totalitarian powers, such as the power to arbitrarily arrest people, cart them away to torture chamber or prison cell, hold them indefinitely without trial, torture them, and execute them.
The tyranny was all justified under Egypt’s “war on terrorism,” a war that originated with the assassination of the country’s president some three decades before. Those totalitarian powers were supposed to be “temporary” but as Americans have learned, as a practical matter such “temporary” powers are never relinquished by those who wield them. Like here in the United States, the “war on terrorism” that gave rise to such tyrannical powers in Egypt just keeps going and going and going.
What the Egyptian people failed to realize was that the fundamental problem was never Mubarak himself. He was just the guy at the top of the system. The fundamental problem was the system itself — i.e., the vast military-intelligence establishment that forms the foundation of Egypt’s governmental system. While the military seemed to recede from the scene and “return to barracks,” even permitting Morsi to fire and replace a general or two, it was all an illusion. The foundation of Egypt’s government continued to be its national-security state — i.e., its enormous military-intelligence establishment.
Throughout the Arab Spring, the Egyptian military made it clear that it wasn’t going anywhere — that it wasn’t about to relinquish its privileged, permanent, and omnipotent position in Egyptian society. Just as here in the United States, the military and intelligence forces of Egypt consider themselves absolutely essential to Egypt’s “freedom” and well-being. That’s why they’re killing people who are resisting their tyranny — to ensure the “order and stability” that such “freedom” requires.
Moreover, like here in the United States military officials see their vast military establishment as essential to the economic well-being of the nation. Like U.S. officials here, they love to point to the many jobs that are created by the vast number of hotels and other commercial establishments owned and operated by the Egyptian military.
But nothing could be further from the truth. The Egyptian military-industrial complex, just like here in the United States, is one of the major causes of horrible economic conditions within the country. The military-intelligence establishment is nothing but a gigantic cancerous tumor that sucks enormous amounts of savings and wealth from the body politic, private-sector savings and wealth that would otherwise go into productive capital, which is the key to an economically prosperous society.
It was not difficult to see the end game here. The presidential election in Egypt a year ago was done only through the consent of the military. Again, that’s where the power is. The reason that Morsi was elected president was because the military permitted it. When the military tired of Morsi, it got rid of him, thereby rearing its ugly head once again.
Morsi himself was at fault. When he assumed office, he made a pact with the devil. He agreed that as part of the new constitution, the Egyptian military establishment would continue to maintain its permanent, privileged position in Egyptian society, a position in which it would not have to answer to anyone and in which its financial affairs would continue to be secret. When Morsi agreed to that condition, he cooked his own goose.
Supporters of the coup are saying that it’s not really a coup because the military has appointed a civilian to the presidency. Or they’re saying that since the military is going to schedule new elections soon, it’s just another stage toward democracy.
What a sick joke. The military is running the show. The new guy is nothing but a puppet of military, which controls his strings. Whoever assumes the presidency in the future, through elections or not, knows that to stay in office he must do what the military wants him to do. He must defer to its authority. That harsh reality cannot be ignored.
What role has as the U.S. government played in all this? Right now, U.S. officials are playing the innocent, as they usually do with these sorts of regime-change operations. But they’re not innocent. They have been the enablers — the funders — the trainers — the compatriots — the buddies — the rendition-torture partners — of the Egyptian military-intelligence establishment for decades. $1.3 billion. That’s how much U.S., taxpayer money is funneled into the Egyptian military establishment every single year. It comes in the form of guns, tanks, and other weaponry, all of which is ready to be deployed against the Egyptian people — or, to be more precise, against Egyptians who dare to challenge the military tyranny under which they live and have lived for decades.
None of this suggests that Morsi was any type of libertarian. On the contrary, he’s as statist as any American statist. But the fact is that he was democratically elected and that that experiment with democracy has been extinguished by the U.S.-supported Egyptian military dictatorship.
A necessary prerequisite to achieving a free and prosperous society in Egypt is a dismantling, not a reform, of the nation’s vast military-intelligence establishment. How that can be accomplished under the current circumstances is a good question. A good first step would be for the Egyptian people to communicate to the U.S. government to never again corrupt Egypt’s political system with U.S. taxpayer money or weaponry. It would be the greatest gift the Egyptian people could give themselves and also to us, the American people.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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