Al Arabaya, an affiliate of Al Jazeera presented a very good video entitled Into the Arms of Soldiers, a book written by David Kirkpatrick, a New York Times correspondent, shown a few days ago. In the video I participated in a moderate amount and as usual much of what I had to say was not in the program. This is normal of course, Al Jazeera has its own gospel to peddle just like The Washington Post and New York Times, and in its own way it probably less dishonest than either the WaPO or NYT. It is a mouthpiece of the Qatari Royal Family and a very professional one. It is favorable disposed toward the Muslim Brotherhood and viscerally opposed to the regime of general Al Sisi in Egypt. It was highly enthused by the revolution which deposed Hosni Mubarak but very unhappy with the military “coup” or second revolution ( depending on your viewpoint) which deposed the Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi almost a year later. The program is at
I appear at 7.3, 11.23 ands 17.39 to dispense my wisdom. Basically the words I was allowed to say were important, but not what I thought was most important. In the program I depicted, quite accurately, the Obama administration policy toward Egypt as incoherent and disastrous for the overall image of the United States in the Middle East. The various would be managers of our policy toward the Mubarak, Morsi and al Sisi regimes all had Lone Ranger ideas toward Egypt and the Middle East. Obama was asleep at the wheel and there was no firm leadership to conduct a sensible policy toward the Middle East.
Obama in one of his first trips overseas was to Egypt to presumably “reset” our policy toward the Middle East. According to an Egyptian writer Tareq Heggy, Obama was received as a “rock star” by the Egyptian audience. As the months worn on, however, the adulation turned to contempt, especially because of his wishy-washy policies toward Syria and Egypt, and later his subservience to Iranian pretensions. Ben Rhodes, the aspiring novelist, celebrity wannabe, and deputy National security advisor under Obama, parading as a foreign policy expert, was in accord with Obama’s view of the future They saw the Muslim Brotherhood as the dawn of a new Middle East, which with proper guidance would be “people we can work with.” Clinton, Kerry and General Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff who also viewed himself as an expert in Middle East affairs, all had conflicting views.
This was part of the overwhelming hubris of Obama and his advisors in dealing with the Middle East, in which they saw themselves as experts but were in reality clueless. His expeditious and senseless evacuation of troops from Iraq, leading to the near triumph of the ISIS, was only one facet of his hapless policy toward the Arab World.
The points I wanted to make were these;
The military leadership involved in industry, commerce, or politics always has a grave deleterious effect on the capabilities and effectiveness of the military. The Egyptian army has shown in its campaigns against the Islamists in Sinai, that its effectiveness has suffered a great deal
The army is not the only problem. The extremely powerful intelligence community of Egypt first created by President Nasser, has the dossier on every business, military, political, and religious figure in Egypt. To a large extent they form the backbone of the deep state that overturned Mubarak after he became a burden, and put al Sisi in power.
The book Into the Hands of Soldiers, by Kirkpatrick, was a good reporting narrative, but it lacked an analysis of the military. A Far better and evenly balanced book was Inside Egypt by John Bradley. The best analysis of why the 2011 revolution failed is depicted by Samuel Tadros, Reflections on the Revolution in Egypt.
Other books I suggested but were not in the presentation are.
Militarizing the Nation by Zeinab Abu-Magd
Once upon a Revolution by Thanassis Cambanis
The Egyptian Military in Popular Culture, by Dalia Said Mostafa
A History of the Egyptian Intelligence Service by Owen Sirrs
Soldiers, Spies, and Statesmen: Egypts Road to Revolt by Hazem Kandil