The Egyptian military has been in quite a quandary during the week's events. Torn between the demands of the nation's leadership and the will of the Egyptian people, the actions of this large organization will play a major role in the crisis moving forward.
According to The New York Times, the Egyptian military is "the world's 10th largest" with "about 468,000 soldiers." As of 2005, the CIA reports that 3.4% of Egypt's GDP is spent on its military. The Times also describes the military as "powerful, popular and largely opaque" and reports that it "commands broad respect in Egypt." Eric Trager of Foreign Affairs concludes, "perhaps the best thing that the military has going for it is that it is -- emphatically -- not the police" which "are famously corrupt and abusive." During the recent protests, the military has been welcomed with relatively open arms. A perfect visualization of this can be summed up during one emotional moment when "the people started chanting, 'Al-shaab wal-gaysh eed wahdah' - 'The people and the army are one hand' -- and some wiped away tears of joy."
The New York Times also reports that "the military carried out the 1952 coup that overthrew the monarchy and has considered itself the shepherd of the revolution ever since," and goes on to explain how embattled President Hosni Mubarak has a history that is intimately intertwined with the military. He "led the Air Force before rising to prominence when President Anwar el-Sadat appointed him vice president in 1975." In fact, "all four presidents in the ensuing years [after the 1952 coup] have been military generals."
As explained in The Washington Post, The United States is also wrapped up in Egypt's military, given that the organization was "built with tens of billions of dollars in American technology and training." In addition, "the U.S. government has spent millions of dollars in the past decade bringing Egyptian military officers to the United States for training and education."
With so many interests involved and so much at stake, the Egyptian military will be a critical factor to watch in the coming days.
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