Thursday, March 3, 2011

Will Egypt's Army weigh down the Revolution?

Egypt's ruling military council in session
Guest post by veteran Middle East publisher F. Najia

"With the Army overburdening the Revolution instead of shoring it up, I am afraid this wonderful fleeting moment in Egypt will slip from our hands, causing us to lose a unique opportunity to fulfill our dream."

Fahmi Howeidi, Egypt’s foremost columnist, whose weekly think pieces are syndicated across the Arab world, expressed the concern this week.

He writes:

Facts on the ground show a perceptible gap emerging between expectations and practices.  Revolution means abolishing a regime, closing its chapter and building a new and dissimilar one to replace it. What is happening in Egypt is not exactly that.

Those running the affairs of state since the Revolution’s triumph see what took place in a different light. Evidence is in a sitting premier (who has now been replaced) and three government ministers who have been disowned by the people. Governors, university presidents and information and security leaders are still in office as well. This translates into a revamped edition of the old regime. It is as if the sacrifices made -- by millions of Egyptians who took to the streets to challenge the pre-January 25 order and by the thousands who were killed, injured, maimed, tortured, abducted or reported missing -- were meant to give the old regime a facelift.

At the same time, the task of politically inexperienced military leaders who stepped in is colossal. Thirty years of political paralysis and economic corruption landed on their lap, plus all sorts of external pressures and previous commitments to the far and the near – chiefly the United States and Israel. So the Military are not in an enviable position and their excuses are at times justified.

Where do we go from here?

To answer, we have to agree on who specifically launched the Revolution and paid its price. Was it the Army that launched it in support of the people, or was it the public who sparked the Revolution before the Army intervened in solidarity? 

The indisputable fact is the public moved first, led the revolt and paid the price. The army later stepped in to perform its national duty and protect the public.

This to say the public started the Revolution and the Army stepped in to protect it.

What happens if the public wants a bona fide Revolution and a new regime while the Army opts for a quasi-revolution that simply revamps the Mubarak regime?

My answer is the public is the Revolution’s landlord. “The Army which declared its solidarity with the public should continue performing its role and heeding its demands. Should the gap between public demands and the Army sponsoring the government persist and widen, it would mean the Army has gone back on its word. Instead of being the guardian and prop of the Revolution it becomes an obstacle to realizing its objectives. I hope the days ahead will dispel the suspicion.