Following Mubarak’s resignation and delegation of powers to Suleiman, Egypt is now directly ruled by the Egyptian’s military’s Supreme Council. It is a measure of how strange the situation has become that many Westerners seem to be celebrating what everyone would otherwise be calling a military coup (which is effectively what it is) as a moment of liberation. Even more than in Tunisia, the apparatus of the old regime remains in place. Dislodging Mubarak from power was extraordinary, but Egypt is now more directly under the control of a purely military regime than it was when the protests began. Once Mubarak’s immediate departure became the central demand, this became the most likely outcome.
There are times when the military’s intervention in politics can defuse a political crisis and provide a transitional phase to some sort of representative government. No doubt this is what many hope and expect will happen in Egypt. It is also true that these interventions typically work to the detriment of popular movements, and as long as the military retains the right to intervene to resolve political crises no government will be very safe from a future coup. The “deep state” might be more or less heavy-handed in its involvement in politics, but it will remain as an ever-present reminder to any future government that it is not really in control of anything that matters. It might be worth considering that the overall effect of the protests so far has been the purge of the few civilians, technocrats and economic reformers that had been part of the political leadership. The current leadership is now drawn entirely from the military, which is the most powerful institution in the country and the one that has the most to lose from meaningful political change.
Joshua Stacher just wrote about the role of the military for Foreign Affairs. He argued:
Although many of the protesters, foreign governments, and analysts have concentrated on the personality of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, those surrounding the embattled president, who make up the wider Egyptian regime, have made sure the state’s viability was never in question. This is because the country’s central institution, the military, which historically has influenced policy and commands near-monopolistic economic interests, has never balked.
Ellis Goldberg writes in a new article for FA today that Mubarak’s departure likely means ” the return of the somewhat austere military authoritarianism of decades past.”