Friday, August 09, 2013

Sisi and Nasser

Issandr el-Amrani and Michael Collins Dunn both have posts pondering the ambitions of Egypt's General Abd al-Fatah al-Sisi, and both conclude that he himself is probably considering events unsure of his best course of action.  Many in Egypt, of course, are speaking of him as a potential new Nasser.  For historical context, it is worth considering the conclusions of Joel Gordon's Nasser's Blessed Movement, including the point that Nasser and the Free Officers were themselves playing it by ear.  As Gordon said in his conclusion:
If the officers did not seize power with any definite agenda, they nonetheless did so with a sense of mission. Their confrontation with competing forces strengthened their conviction that the political order needed purging, that six months of military-directed rule would not suffice, and that they best could direct the transition back to democracy. Their rejection of the ideological dogma of any particular faction allowed their own political orientation to develop as they confronted challenges to their rule. That their orientation developed toward military domination of the state did not arise from a belief that the army belonged in politics. The hasty shunning, then dismantling of the Free Officers' movement attests to that. Rather, the junta's encounter with popular discontent and organized opposition, and its brushes with defeat (and in Nasser's case, death) in 1954, led the officers to take the steps necessary to preserve public order and their own authority.
Gordon notes that other military rulers have preferred to rule allied with civilian leadership.  However, in early 1950's Egypt, all the major political players were internally divided and had also come to be seen as either corrupt or threatening.  From 1952 through 1954, the Free Officers mostly just responded to events, only gradually coming to the belief that long-term rule by their junta was the best course of action.

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