Culture

Egyptian coup reveals the ‘deep state’ in all our lives

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This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

Kuwait is in.  Yesterday Kuwait pledged four billion dollars to Egypt – the Egyptian revolution – or the Egyptian military.  Take your pick.

With Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States in line, the rogues’ gallery is almost complete.  The IMF can’t be far behind.

The Guardian reports reports that U. S. military aid, the latest being F-16 fighter jets, continues to flow to Egypt.  Lockheed Martin – yet another member of the rogues’ gallery as the premier supplier to the Pentagon – is happy as a lark.

With so many political and strategic strings attached what do these handouts mean?  In an economy the size of Egypt’s these billions don’t last long.   The money keeps the economy from collapsing rather than moving society in a new direction.  It also helps to stabilize and consolidate the power of all concerned – except progressive forces.   Progressive change isn’t part of these aid packages.

Power continues to be the status quo coin of the realm.Should we expect more?

Meanwhile Egypt’s military government is broadening its crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists in general.  Allegations of inciting violence before and after President Morsi’s ouster are circulating.  That’s a mouthful for a military that’s been conducting coups for decades and dominating the streets whenever it sees fit.  Nonetheless, such statements are made without a hint of irony.

Arrest warrants for Muslim Brotherhood leadership multiply.  Reports are that a (re)banning of the party might be imminent. Since Egypt is (re)turning to Mubarak’s time (re)banning the Muslim Brotherhood makes sense.

This follows the New York Times report report this morning that there may have been a concerted effort to weaken Morsi’s government by the police, judiciary and private sector elites aligned with the old Mubarak regime.  This theory is buttressed by the sudden change in society’s functioning.  With Morsi’s ouster, for example, the police have reappeared on the streets and restored order.  Gas and electric shortages have disappeared.  The Times also suggests that Tamarod, the movement that sought the recall of President Morsi, was funded by a business titan aligned with Mubarak’s regime. 

In short, the opposition to Morsi was coordinated and calculated.  Morsi wasn’t going to be given a chance to finish his term.  Here’s how the Times frames it: 

“Despite coming to power through the freest elections in Egyptian history, Mr. Morsi was unable to extend his authority over the sprawling state apparatus, and his allies complained that what they called the ‘deep state’ was undermining their efforts at governing.”

It will be interesting to see how Tamarod responds to the claim against it.  Is it true that the more progressive forces in Egypt were co-opted by Mubarak era oligarchs?  Since progressive forces aligned with the military, perhaps other alliances were necessary, too.

How you accomplish political change without using and being used by the powerful and often regressive forces isn’t found in a simple formula. 

Politics makes strange bedfellows but the issue remains how truly progressive change can come to Egypt with such known and unknown alliances. Using and being used is another way of defining politics. In the end, though, who comes out on top is important. 

In Egypt, I doubt progressive forces will win the day.  The most progressive forces can hope for is to hold their own.  What “holding their own” means in Egypt today is another story.

The “deep state” is everywhere you look.  You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to recognize that power doesn’t just give itself over because a dictator has been banished, an election is held and a new ideology is ascendant.  Morsi and his allies may have been ineffectual.  They may have been unable to negotiate a bridge between the old and the new order.  However, their major failure might have been their inability to convince the Mubarak elite that the future they wanted to create included them in their elite roles. 

Were the Mubarak elite wrong?  Did Morsi and his allies want to create a new elite, an elite that would one day become the deep state?

Mubarak was in power for almost thirty years.  An entire world of influence, money, power and corruption was created.  Did anyone think that this world – Mubarak’s world – would go silently into the night?

Egypt’s current struggles have been framed around the secular/religion divide.  In this case, at least for now, secular deep state is defeating Islamic deep religion.   Or is it really a struggle between Mubarak’s old deep state and Morsi’s ascendant deep state?

Trying to find a place within the conflict between deep states, progressive change can only be incremental and ancillary.  This means that alignment with the lesser of evils is the name of the game. 

The lesser of evils.  Another global phenomena.  Can this strategy succeed anywhere?

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Up to 9 billion so far….not counting US aid. Reuters / Lee Jae-Won…. UAE will provide Cairo with $1 billion and lend it a further $2 billion. Saudi Arabia will give Egypt a $5 billion aid package. Abu Dhabi will also to give Egypt $1 billion. The IMF wont be far behind now. “The White House has refused to label Morsi’s ouster as an army coup, which distances the Obama administration from the Muslim Brotherhood’s… Read more »

I was one explained why the sales of complicated military hardware has key strategic importance. It means that officers of the buyers have to be trained by the seller, and there is no better way of recruiting intelligence collaborators. In the case of a country that is dominated by the military politically, this means that key political decision may be perform by people on the payroll of the seller country. It explains a bit why… Read more »

The lesser of evils, how can this come to be for the Egyptian masses when the old regime and any new regime still must depend on US dollars and diplomatic cover? Egypt is captive to Israel, via US aid & diplomatic cover, The only free state in the ME is Israel because of AIPAC et al.

MARC ELLIS- “Did anyone think that this world – Mubarak’s world – would go silently into the night?” Are you kidding? Go back and read the articles and comments on Mondoweiss during the so-called “revolution.” Pure wishful thinking. Some folks are unable to deal with the reality that in a revolution, the institutions of social power are fundamentally realigned. This did not occur in Egypt, nor was/is it likely to occur. Egypt is part of… Read more »

“but the issue remains how truly progressive change can come to Egypt”

Probably in the same way as truly progressive change can come to Mexico
ie never under the current global system.

Egypt is on the periphery of first world Europe. It has no chance. Look at Ukraine.