The Egyptian Army: Make Money, Not War

It seems that former President Mubarak has absqualated.* But before that, Reuters reported:

Eyewitnesses on Thursday night said the Egyptian army had troops pulled out of many locations near the presidential palace in Cairo, where they had been stationed since the beginning of the ongoing popular uprising. Sources said army tanks had disappeared from Salah Salem Street, which is near the presidential palace and President Hosni Mubarak’s residence. . . . . The sources opined that the withdrawal of the troops could be a warning to the president that the army may not be able to protect him if protesters decided to march towards the palace.

Yet the army doesn’t seem to be seeking to mount a coup. What makes it tick? At Jadaliyya, Paul Amar, author and Associate Professor of Global & International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who we’ve been citing frequently on Egypt, explains.

The Egyptian military is one of the most interesting and misunderstood economic actors in the country. . . Since the military has been prevented by the Camp David treaty from making war, it has instead used its sovereignty over huge tracks of desert and coastal property to develop shopping malls, gated cities and beach resorts, catering to rich and modest Egyptians, local and international consumers and tourists. Their position vis-à-vis the uprising is thus complicated. They hated the rapacious capitalists around Gamal Mubarak, who sold off national lands, assets and resources to US and European corporations. But the military also wants tourists, shoppers and investors to consume in their multi-billion dollar resorts and venues.

He establishes that the military has been hostile to Mubarak. Why then hasn’t it aggressively protected the protesters in Tahir Square?

The military identifies very strongly with representing and protecting “the people,” but also wants the people to go home and stop scaring away the tourists. The military will continue to mobilize this in-between position in interesting ways in the coming years.

*To depart in a hurry; abscond.