from From the Potomac to the Euphrates and Middle East Program

Egypt’s Civilians Should Control Military

July 5, 2013

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This article was originally published here at Politico.com 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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