Reforming Egypt's military from within


Egyptian soldiers stand guard near a mural of Queen Nefertiti outside a polling station in Minya, some 350 kms south of Cairo, during the third and final round of landmark parliamentary elections on January 3, 2012.



Post-revolution Egypt is often defined by an emerging civilian government that is pitted against a ruling military unwilling to give up power. But, as illustrated by a fascinating Reuters report today, the picture is more complicated than that.

Reuters revealed that in October, 500 Egyptian military soldiers staged a "mini revolt." They were unhappy with the level of punishment being meted out by their superiors. The internal protest lasted several days.

The protests was not unique. According to Reuters, there have been more than a dozen instances of lower level officers speaking out against unfair treatment and salaries. They pointed especially to the injustice of a few top commanders who had become vastly wealthy.

"Military ranks struggle like the rest of Egyptians because, like Egyptian society, the wealth of the military is concentrated at the top and does not trickle down. You have to reach a specific rank before wealth is unlocked," one major told Reuters.

It was Egypt's military that turned the tide of the revolution against former President Hosni Mubarak. When the army's tanks went from securing government buildings to securing protesters, the fight was over. But that initial goodwill between the military and the people dissipated quickly as the ruling military council moved to shore up its own power instead of smoothing the way for a new civilian government.

But the Egyptian military, like most militaries, is multi-faceted. And if the rank and file continue the revolutionary spirit, they could yet play an important role in helping the Egypt move toward a more democratic, civilian government.