from From the Potomac to the Euphrates and Middle East Program

Military ’Soft Coup’ in Egypt Has Precedent

June 21, 2012

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This is an excerpt from an article published here at The Christian Science Monitor on Wednesday, June 20, 2012. I hope you find it interesting and I look forward to reading your comments. 

The days of coups d’état around the world are over, or so many observers have told us in recent years. Militaries have been domesticated, the people will not tolerate martial law, national stock markets would swoon if officers toppled civilians, and the opprobrium of the international community would be intense.

All these factors were to have made the sight of tanks and troops in the streets the stuff of grainy old photos of a bygone era. Indeed, coups have been relatively rare with perhaps the exception of places in Africa and tiny islands in the South Pacific.

Yet the Egyptian military’s recent constitutional decree indicates that when the interests of the officers dictate, they are more than capable of using a combination of coercion, prestige, and their own sense of national duty to undermine legitimate governments and political processes.

There is a debate whether a June 17 decree, issued by Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (or SCAF), was actually a coup. After all, they did not deploy troops to sensitive locations. They did not take over the television station (it was already in their hands). They did not arrest politicians and they did not issue a numbered communiqué declaring a new order – all hallmarks of coups from all over the world.

Moreover, Egypt’s officers acted after the Supreme Constitutional Court issued a ruling declaring one-third of the seats in the People’s Assembly void and the head of that court asserted that without those seats the parliament could not function.

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