Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

Cook examines developments in the Middle East and their resonance in Washington.

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Egypt’s Civilians Should Control Military

by Steven A. Cook
July 5, 2013

Protesters, who are against Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, react in Tahrir Square in Cairo July 3, 2013 (Suhaib Salem/Courtesy Reuters).


This article was originally published here at on Thursday, July 4, 2013.

For the millions of Egyptians celebrating President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster, the military’s move promises a brighter future. Yet the laudable democratic goals of Egypt’s twin revolutions will remain beyond reach so long as the officers continue to be the source of power and authority in the political system.

Was it a coup? This question has fueled a raging debate online — one that carries legal implications for the U.S. government — but it misses the point. Since July 1952, when the Free Officers under Gamal Abdel Nasser pushed King Farouk from power, the armed forces have dominated Egypt’s political system — a fact that Wednesday’s dramatic events only reinforced.

As President Obama stated after the military ousted Morsi, “the best foundation for lasting stability in Egypt is a democratic political order,” but Egyptians will not have a full democracy until they bring the military under civilian control. It will be a long and arduous process, but it is also one of the few promising democracy-promotion projects the United States can help Egypt undertake.

Egypt’s military has a long history of dabbling in politics — but not as much as one might think. After 1952, it never needed to undertake a coup, because the political system the Free Officers built was rigged to favor the interests of the armed forces.

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  • Posted by Raja M. Ali Saleem

    Right. What Obama can do is to suspend aid to Egypt and vote against any IMF-Egypt agreement until Egypt is back under a democratic set-up. Suspension of aid and no money coming from IMF will send a clear signal to Egyptian military that they cannot keep on ruling Egypt.

    There are some people who hate Islam(or other religions) more than they love democracy and are rejoicing now. I will like to request them to take a look at history and realize that democracy is the only way which gives them a chance to achieve their objectives. All other ways are doomed to fail.

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