Just came across a very interesting post from Dan Drezner, questioning the capacity of the Egyptian military. Read alongside some of the Wikileaks cables, it raises questions about the impact of US funding on the military:
The fact that jets buzzed Tahrir Dquare suggests two things. First, the military is trying to signal to protestors to, you know, go home. Second, the military might not have the available tools to make this point more effectively, and might not be able to efficiently dispatch protestors if so desired. If this cable is accurate, the Egyptian military has long-focused on developing its conventional warfare capabilities, which is great for an armored attack in the desert and lousy for subduing a restive civilian population.
The cable to which he refers is from July 2009, written in advance of Admiral Mike Mullen’s visit to Egypt. It refers to the resistance of Defense Minister Tantawi* in the face of new military realities. This assertion would seem to be true, from the American point of view at least, as it is corroborated by cables from 2008 and 2010.
The cables suggest that US officials have been largely unsuccessful in encouraging the modernisation of Egypt’s military, despite years of trying. It’s interesting play a little thought-experiment here and imagine how the protests might have been dealt with, had the military bowed to American pressure and moved towards greater flexibility. I don’t have the answers, but it’s thought-provoking nevertheless.
– – –
* Interestingly, Tantawi made an appearance in Tahrir Square today.