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Brotherhood vs. Military
An Old Game

From the time of General Nasser, the Egyptian military’s core competence has been crushing the Muslim Brotherhood, for 60 years its most powerful rival. Killing some leaders, imprisoning others, keeping still others on a very short leash as the representatives of a quasi-legal political movement: this is what the Egyptian army and its police allies in the interior ministry know how to do, and since Mohamed Morsi’s downfall they appear to be doing it very effectively once again.

Historically, the army has been able to get the rest of society to accept its rule for six basic reasons: the prestige of the military as a symbol of Egyptian independence and nationalism; the deep aversion to chaos and instability that many Egyptians have (powerfully reinforced today as they look at events in Syria and Libya); the liberals and the Copts ultimately look to the military as their best and only protection against what they fear would be a stifling and oppressive Islamic regime; the difficulty the Muslim Brotherhood has had in forming an effective national organization in the face of persecution and harassment; and the economic machine organized around state patronage, licenses and jobs that unites the commercial classes and Egypt’s state bureaucracy to the military rulers.

All those factors seem to be at work today. On Sunday, security personnel broke up protests and stormed dormitories at Al-Azhar University for the umpteenth time. Other demonstrations were disbanded in Assiut and cities in the Delta. Bombs explode regularly at police posts. The military blames all these incidents on the Brotherhood, which it declared a terrorist organization weeks ago. The rhetoric on both sides is becoming more hardline.

The Muslim Brotherhood can only hope to succeed by provoking a security and economic crisis — but the more the Brotherhood promotes disorder (scaring tourists and foreign investors away) the more the conservative instincts of many Egyptians take over. For now at least, the military seems to be winning and the Brotherhood hasn’t been able to come up with an effective counter strategy.

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  • TommyTwo

    “the army has been able to get the rest of society to accept its rule for six basic reasons”

    “Our three weapons are fear and surprise…” 🙂

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