In its militarism Egypt of today looks exactly like Prussia of eighteenth century. Egypt is no more a country which has an army. It is a tract of land, a geographical location, owned by an army. It is where the army has a nation. And, therefore, Egypt is what the French Revolution-era author, diplomat and orator, Honore Mirabeau, more than two hundred years ago tantalisingly observed about Prussia in his book, A Secret History of the Court of Berlin. He said, "Prussia is not a country that has an Army; it is an Army that has a country".
And the army has once again taken back its control of the country, which since past fifty years and more has been its fiefdom.
After sitting out on the bench in cold for nearly three hundred and sixty five days the army in Egypt finally brought back with unashamed brutality the familiar faces and spirit of the regime against which the Egyptians rebelled in February 2011.
Counter revolutionary forces triumphed once again in the country on June 30 subverting the spirit of the uprising for which 1,200 young men laid their lives down. The military coup reintroduced the regime in a Faustian pact between a section of the civilians and the army whose generals masqueraded as democrats wearing a benign mask of benevolence.
And as the way things were before 2011 returned, Egypt repeated an inglorious chapter of history —failure of the French Revolution of 1789. History took 224 years to repeat. If the fall of Bastille has so long been the best advertisement of democracy and freedom, fall of Cairo to its own army will, hereafter, be the best poster of militarism that trampled freedom and democracy.
As Lieutenant General Abdul Fatah Al Sisi usurped power, rolled out tanks on the streets of Cairo and Alexandria, Washington Post's Cairo correspondent, reported how Zeinhom Hassan Ibrahim, a former parliamentarian from Hosni Mubarak's now-defunct National Democratic Party, celebrated sacking of the country's first ever elected president. He slaughtered a sheep, hired a DJ and threw a party for his neighbours. Ibrahim had lived through the year of Mohamed Mursi's rule in blinking disbelief, as if the whole world had turned upside down.
"From the moment former President Hosni Mubarak was forced out of office on 11 February 2011, the disgruntled beneficiaries of the corrupt Mubarak regime have been on a direct and persistent course of planning to undermine the revolution and to reverse this 'unfortunate' and unexpected incident that threatened their privileged positions in Egyptian society."
The beneficiaries of military rule, from Nasser to Mubarak, suddenly found themselves stripped of their powers to control and exploit the country, pushed out of their privileged positions as Egypt's first civilian and democratically elected president, despite all his misrules and wrong moves, sought to establish supremacy of civilian rule.
Of them all, the army felt threatened the most, militarism that has reigned supreme in Egypt for over half a century suddenly looked in peril. The army, which has always owned the country since the bloodless coup of 1952 that ousted King Farouk, was only waiting in the wings to occupy the stage. It knew an opportunity was in the offing.
And the opportunity came calling, loud and clear, when a banner appeared at Tahrir Square where once stood a massive poster of Hosni Mubarak. The banner said, "The Army. The People. One Hand." In next few days that ran up to June 30 coup the army wore back the mask of democrats, the generals posed to be saviour of people and freedom, pulled down an elected president amid loud cheers of anti-Mursi demonstrators, incarcerated him, suspended the nation's Constitution and brought back the old regime which Mursi's rule threatened to obliterate more than Islamising society.
Protecting the Egyptian minorities, saving the country's economy from sliding further and maintaining Egypt's secular mosaic were only ruse used by the military to legitimise a coup. The objective was to stifle consolidation of civilian rule, keep the military enterprise going and retain the army's hegemony over governance of the country.
Since 1952 the army in Egypt, more than being the protector of the country's territorial sovereignty, has grown into a massive enterprise controlling at least 40 per cent of Egypt's economy. With over thirty five companies and factories it runs and owns the army produces almost everything from flat-screen television sets, fridges, mineral water to processed foods. It maniufactures cars and has the monopoly of marketing rights of several products, runs hotels and restaurants, football grounds, controls over seventy per cent of Egypt's real estate business and owns over sixty per cent of land. It runs gas stations, maritime transport, and heavy equipment leasing companies. It has lately entered into partnership with overseas companies to diversify its range of business activities in generation of renewable energy, oil and gas etc.
"Officially it acknowledges generating $198m a year. The true scale is probably several times that figure."
The army has always owned Egypt and, predictably, it did not want to risk its enterprise come tumbling down. It could not afford to let a civilian government to take roots and neither will it ever allow such a thing to happen.
So, when millions went back to the streets to oppose Mursi army was quick to take advantage. So did the beneficiaries of military rule. The army projected itself as the most "capable arbiter to reset country's transition toward democracy."
The coup in Egypt is the revenge of old guards. General Sisi isn't expected to facilitate the country's transition towards democracy. He will only be interested in saving the army's enterprise.
The author is the Opinion Editor of Times of Oman.