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.
Is Egypt quieting down or is a permanent opposition to the governing authorities consolidating? Yesterday’s demonstrations lacked the fireworks of previous days. It may be the lull before another storm.
Whether that storm is increased pro-Morsi street activity or increased army and police activity – or both – is yet to be seen. If the militarization of Egyptian society increases over the next months, progressive forces will find themselves in an even deeper dilemma than they are in now. Progressive Egyptians have little choice but to back the military even if it becomes more aggressive. Their fate is in the military’s hands.
Egypt’s deep state – the military, police judiciary, state bureaucracy and economic elite, in sum, the core of power in Egypt instead of the civilian political veneer – is reasserting itself. Egypt isn’t alone here. There are deep states everywhere. That’s why significant political and social change is so difficult.
Speaking of cores on the political scene, did you see the New York Times report on Hillary’s latest gear-up for a Presidential run? Hillary is bringing in buckets full of money – $200,000 a speech and more. The Clinton wealth is expanding exponentially. So is its reach.
What change would Hillary bring to the political arena? Once an outsider, she is now part of the deep state. But then, as in Egypt, progressive forces in America have their hands tied. If you’re convinced that a vote for Hillary is a vote for the deep state, who will you vote for? Governor Rick Perry of Texas?
Hillary and Bill – with the Bushes – have dominated American presidential politics for decades now. There may be another decade or so left in their dynastic reach. The Obama administration is more Clinton than the Clintons and Obama’s new pick for director of the FBI is a Bush retread who spoke up for the Patriot Act. (James B. Comey). Change isn’t always change.
Jews of Conscience can learn from the unfolding drama of coup d’état and martial law in Egypt if we widen our angle of vision. An example is the military – the essence of the deep state – in America and Israel where most Jews of Conscience live. The militaries of these countries are more or less the same. Our predicament is similar to progressive forces in Egypt where they’re using the military to help them accomplish their goal of a freer and more democratic society.
The danger, of course, is that the democracy the Egyptian generals ‘guard’ is the very same democracy that rarely makes it to its vaunted terminus – a minimal military presence that has less and less effect on society, politics and public policy.
Right now the military dominates the organized sector of Egyptian society. Can we say less of Israel?
In Israel the military is everywhere and ready to strike at a moment’s notice. Soldiers in uniform with weapons at the ready are in the streets, traveling on the highways, in buses and hanging out in crowded areas. That’s within Israel’s 1967 borders. In East Jerusalem and the West Bank there is even more of the military on display in the security terminals, along the roads and in bases that guard the settlements.
Israel is on a permanent war footing without war, let alone with it. War is simply an extension and acceleration of Israel’s daily life.
Name a country that is as militarized as Israel? If there are any, they are few in number. Those that are as militarized are usually larger in size and territory, therefore their militaries are largely hidden from public view. And though few militaries are as directly involved in their economy as Egypt’s army is, they are nonetheless crucial to the economies by employing large numbers of people and pumping the economy with money from government.
There are many examples of this military largesse. In fact, it seems that thriving modern economies are dependent upon it. First on the list, but by no means the only country, is the United States. Can you imagine the employment figures and industrial capacity in America if suddenly the military and all that it takes to supply it disappeared?
When President Dwight Eisenhower spoke of the military-industrial complex in his farewell address to the nation he envisioned a future difficulty – the military-industrial complex was only in its infancy. Today it is entrenched and assumed. The United States economy would collapse without it.
The national security state arrived a long time before Edward Snowden revealed the NSA spying. Many of the countries that Snowden has on his asylum wish list are either participants or wannabes in the national security state club. Yesterday he again appealed to Russia, the epitome of an authoritarian – and thoroughly corrupt – national security state. (Another contradiction: Progressive non-interventionist activists regarding Syria are dependent on Russia’s opposition to the United States on this issue and its support of the Assad regime.)
Say what you will about the ethical cost, in the modern world development is linked to militarization. The more militarized a society is, the more developed.
Jews of Conscience thinking about Egypt should look within – America and Israel. Our fate, too, is tied up with forces beyond our control. Outside of our imagination, in real time, can we break with the ties that bind us?