Friday, February 04, 2011

Sober and timely analysis by Eberhard Kienle

As you are reading the Kienle piece, please keep in mind a point that I have made on this blog several times:  It is difficult to imagine a feasible political transition that does not take account of the Egyptian military interest.  If Field Marshal Tantawi--who has visited Tahrir twice in recent days--seems to have aligned the Army with the demonstrators and buttressed the popular reputation of the Army as a result, don't think for a minute that Tantawi and his subordinates will embrace a government that does not protect its interests.

Retired senior officials infiltrate nearly every ministry and agency in Egypt.  Active and retired officers govern nearly all of the country's 29 governates.  The military has a significant economic stake in the Egyptian economy, and it is the beneficiary of generous annual subsidies from the U.S.  Any successor to Mubarak who does not enjoy the support of the senior military brass will be actively undermined and thwarted by the generals.

Moreover, although the Obama administration has decided to pull the rug from under Mubarak, the U.S. has done nothing to undermine or diminish the political influence of the Egyptian military.

This means that the next prospects for political change within the regime are more constrained than some observers imagine.  This also means that the inspiring demonstrations that are occurring in Egypt do not, strictly speaking, constitute a revolution in the sense of actually toppling a regime.

In saying this I do not intend to minimize the possibilities for change, in terms of a heightened role for the rule of law, more concerted attention to the needs of rank-and-file citizens, fairer elections or a reduction in massive episodes for corruption, but there is no doubt that many of those who demonstrated against the regime will be disappointed by the absence of sweeping changes.

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