Egyptian Crowd Control in Action


"The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said the raids were carried out as “a last resort” after serious government efforts to mediate a safe exit for protesters.
“After six long weeks of illegal, unauthorized sit-ins,” and after finding evidence of “torture” in the encampments, Egypt’s prosecutor general authorized security forces to break up the camps, Badr Abdelatty, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in a statement.
The Muslim Brotherhood said the 17-year-old daughter of a leading Islamist politician, Mohamed el-Beltagi, was among the protesters shot dead as Egyptian police stormed the Rabaa al-Adawiya, firing automatic rifles, bulldozing tents and beating and arresting protesters."   Washpost


If you did not expect this, then you do not know Egypt.  A maximum use of force against the unarmed is just about the only thing the Egyptian police and armed forces know to do or have any taste for.  I am reminded of the Egyptair flight that was hijacked to Malta.  the Egyptian Army showed up and shot the plane completely full of holes killing most of the passengers in the process.  When asked "why," by me for the CJCS (Admiral Crowe) the Egyptian commander said "To kill the hijackers."

As I observed earlier, the military there are not concerned about American opinion.  They don't think the money will be cut off for long.  They have other sources of money.  They are basically an internal security force and do not need the fancy gear that we have provided them.  Abrams tanks, F-16s, etc. are too sophisticated for them to use effectively in actual combat.

There is a lot of talk about "civil war" in Egypt.  I don't think so.  Egypt is not Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria.  The fellahiin (peasant) descended masses are sulllen and have a proclivity for mob action but are not particulary brave.  IMO the military and police will use maximum force to crush the MB and other salafi opponents as political forces.  They will arrest and prosecute all the leaders they can find on various fanciful charges of treason, murder, corruption, etc.   The salafi parties will be outlawed and driven underground.  There, they will fester and occasionally carry out violent actions which will not affect the overall situation.

The utter ignorance and ineffectiveness of Kerry, the NSC staff and the Department of State are once again made manifest.  pl

This entry was posted in Egypt. Bookmark the permalink.

57 Responses to Egyptian Crowd Control in Action

  1. jr786 says:

    Somehow I suspect they’d be pretty damned concerned if the people opposing them were, say, Jews, or gays,or ‘modern’ Egyptians, or anybody else other than the wrong kind of Muslim.
    Great day for the forces of secular modernity. Imagine the instant iconization of that photo of the woman standing up to a bulldozer if she anybody other than the Other du jour.

  2. Petrous says:

    Mr. Lang
    Your last paragraph is right on the mark. The two key words in the money quote being ” UTTER” & “IGNORANCE”. The question being, could this much ignorance be unintentional, or not?

  3. JohnH says:

    Given the fact that UAE just gave Egypt $3 Billion and Saudi Arabia just gave $2 billion, IMHO part of the quid pro quo will be tolerance of the salafis. Everyone knows how uncomfortable the bedfellows will be. However, the military needs a popular base beyond the 5-10% seculars. And they need more Gulf money. It’s what gives them some breathing space with Washington.

  4. walrus says:

    The question is, Col. Lang, why are dilettantes and other assorted lightweights being allowed to provide policy advice in Washington and heavyweights such as your good-self deliberately excluded?
    Sooner or later, Washington is going to take one piece of bad advice too many and end up with more American blood on its hands.

  5. turcopolier says:

    the incompetent and the naive are in charge. they don’t want to be told they are that by people like me. they would feel that we criticized them even if we said nothing. You notice that the old WASP crowd of ME people are gone from TV. pl

  6. turcopolier says:

    Don’t fall into the trap of believing that everything is a conspiracy. The leadership here really IS that ignorant. pl

  7. Bill H says:

    It was pretty hilarious watching CBS Evening News trying to portray Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood as paragons of modern democracy being taken down by the bloodthirsty military coup. Egypt’s “first freely elected” whatever and a government “produced by democratic revolution” disappearing in a “military bloodbath,” etc.

  8. turcopolier says:

    For some reason known only to the god in the machine comments on this post were closed. they are now open. pl

  9. r whitman says:

    PL-do you think the MB and the salafists will form armed guerilla groups??

  10. turcopolier says:

    r whitman
    The MB and other salafists are already armed. They brought small arms into the “sit-ins” and are using them to fight the security forces. The real question you are asking is whether or not there will be insurrection in the cities on the Battle of Algiers model and/or in the countryside on the Maoist model. IMO the military and police are going to kill and arrest their way through the activist cadres and then the country will quiet down to a sullen passivity. It is interesting the extent to which the Islamists are attacking Coptic churches. That should give you some idea of their ultimate intentions. pl

  11. wilson says:

    While i find myself reluctantly agreeing with your excellent, hard-nosed, takes on the various situations in the region (Syria, Turkey, Palestine, etc…) for Egypt can you do a quick refresher on what direction you would have recommend the US take at the start of the Tahrir Square sit-ins against Mubarak?
    And given where the situation is today, painfully predictable, is there an effective policy option going forward in the near-term? If the money isn’t a big-deal anymore, are we sidelined?

  12. turcopolier says:

    We don’t have influence in Egypt any longer. So, in your phrase, we are “sidelined.” If you back people who intend to make a country over into a theocracy in which all those who disagree are oppressed then you have to expect that the non-theocrats are going to ignore your pressure for them to surrender. Our abandonment of Mubarak was predicated on the utopian ideas of the neocons, the RTPers, and the generally vapid underlings in State and the NSC whose minds have been destroyed by political science as an educational experience. They believed and continue to do so that humanity is evolving politically and socially towards a brave new world that would look a lot like the ideal states portrayed in university seminars. The notion that local culture is as resistant as it is has been simply unacceptable to all these utopians. Egypt is unpromising ground for the development of “democracy” as most of us understand the term in the USA. The best that can be hoped for is a managerial state that is not excessively savage in its need to suppress seditious groups like the Islamists who seek to use the forms of democracy and the gullibility of the utopians for their own purposed. pl

  13. Madhu says:

    “….whose minds have been destroyed by political science as an educational experience.”
    As an outsider to all of this, I’ve been shocked to the extent that this is true. I had no idea that the National Security Apparatus of the United States, the academic and think tank culture, were so thoroughly dominated by such strange scholarship.

  14. walter says:

    I disagree that our foreign policy leaders are Utopian. They are not interested in democracy. Their priorities are “stability”, US access to and control of oil, support of Israel.
    James Baker III interview on Terry Gross “Fresh Air” said:

  15. turcopolier says:

    Stop putting everything in caps like that. It is the equivalent of shouting at me. You are way, way out of date. Yes when Baker was Sec State we had a pragmatic policy based on a desire for stability. I was in the DoD then and it is true that stability and protection of Gulf petroleum were our major goals. That time is long gone. Now we are chasing our tails in pursuit of forms of government that the target populations cannot sustain and are only interested in when their particular group sees an opportunity for power. pl

  16. Alba Etie says:

    Col Lang
    Ms Susan Rice is now the NSC person in charge , yes ? Are we to believe Ms Rice and the other neo- liberals actually believe we can ‘manage ‘ the Egypt upheaval to our advantage – whatever that might be ?

  17. ISL says:

    Dear Colonel Lang,
    Although it may have been a typo, I like the vision of “chasing our tails” like a reversed Cerebus with three tails. Incoherency and inconsistency in US foreign policy has long been a standard feature, which leads other nations to take US pronouncements as so much hot air.

  18. Fred says:

    “whose minds have been destroyed by … an educational experience.”
    What every American learns by their freshman year of high school is you are always guaranteed a good grade by pleasing the power figure at the front of the room – the teacher. Most, upon graduation, promptly stop brown nosing everyone in sight. Sadly the elites still think that platitudes and sycophant behavior are their job requirements. It’s not like they will ever be in harm’s way implementing those policies or get fire if they fail.

  19. Bill H says:

    Always refreshing to see how much you can say in so few words. That was densly packed even for you.

  20. Alba Etie says:

    Col Lang
    I have an Egyptian immigrant who rides regular with us to and from the Austin airport – she is a retired academic. I asked her to please put the present circumstances in Egypt in a context an American like myself might understand . She said imagine if an extreme right wing strain of political theocracy took over our national politics – perhaps the White Christian Identity Movement aka Timothy McVeigh .And that the extremist national government started oppressing every one to include twice a year church going Methodist like myself . And that it was shown that that the ‘Timothy McVeigh” government was going to seize all the levers of national power and sustain themselves forever as a ruling Nationalist Theocracy – This my Egyptian academic customer told me was the the fairly analogous circumstance Egypt now found itself in as a country . My Egyptian customer then asked me -would I not want my US military to restore order and political comity & keep the Timothy McVeighs from jailing my uncle because he was a Methodist Preacher that had a mixed race congregation ?
    Is this a fairly described analysis of current Egyptian state of affairs -that would help me and other Americans understand what is going on in Egypt ? This Egyptian Academic also opines that there will be some type of civilian government in place within the year and Mr El Baridei will return to be part of this civilian effort .

  21. mac says:

    This clearly shows, again, the limits to our influence. I am not sure if that is altogether a negative thing insofar as there are sound reasons for a less pronounced role in many regions around the globe, including, to some degree MENA. But, be that as it may, I fail to see how US security interests are served by seeing the Saudi monarchy et al prevail in seeing its vision of MENA miserably cling to power.

  22. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think there is a parallel here with the Marxists; the expectation that societies will “evolve” from the primitive communism, to slavery, to feualsims, to caplitalism, to socialism and eventually to communism.
    I think the fundamental assumption behind both the Marxists and the Polic. Sci crowd – as you call them – has been the normativeness of Western European experience and its general applicability to the rest of the world.

  23. Fred says:

    I am certain that our expert diplomat Samantha Power will rally all the democracies that are members of the United Nations to support the Egypt of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood’s policy of one man, one vote, one time.

  24. FB Ali says:

    ” The salafi parties will be outlawed and driven underground. There, they will fester and occasionally carry out violent actions which will not affect the overall situation”.
    A factor that may change that prognosis is the rise of well-armed, battle-trained Jihadis in the Muslim world. The situation in Egypt following the crackdown will provide a suitable environment for them to infiltrate the country and operate there. However effective the Egyptian police and army may be in crushing unarmed populations they are not able to effectively keep out or counter such fighters.
    There is a distinct possibility that Egypt may gradually descend into the state that Iraq, Pakistan and Libya are in today.

  25. VietnamVet says:

    You are absolutely correct.
    It is tragic that the last decade of endless wars and an eagerness to start new ones is laid at rest at the feet of the incompetent and naïve.
    Humans are always on the lookout for the wizard behind the curtain controlling events. I blame the Trans-National Elite who are so intent on gaining more wealth and power that they have lost sight of reality and don’t give a damn for the scum below them who haven’t made it like them.
    Civilization requires taxes, government, and the rule of law. Most of all, it depends on the consent of the people. The scary thing about our 21st century future is that our new rulers do not understand that we live on one earth and that they can only govern with the agreement of the people and without fraud or coercion.
    Egypt is going over the edge. Only the most determined will come out on top. But, to rule in peace the new government must be acceptable to the Egyptian people.

  26. ThomasOfNY says:

    Two questions
    1. Is it realistic to expect the US to cut aid entirely?
    2. Col. Lang, what if any English language books would you advise to read about Egypt’s liberal experiment of the 1920s and 30s?

  27. walrus says:

    The current failure of American policy throughout the world is a symptom of a much worse disease infecting American and perhaps Australian British and Canadian thought: this is the myth of “progress” towards utopia as the narrative that drives the world.
    The full flower of this stupidity was reached in noted Conservative Francis Fukuyamas 1992 book: “The End Of History And The Last Man” in which he writes about the fall of the USSR:
    “”What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”
    The linear narrative of “progress” is a lot older than liberal democracy and goes back at least as far as Augustine and can be studied in detail here:
    We are reaping the bitter fruits of the belief that there is such a thing as “progress” and they will continue to be forced down our throats until such time as we wake up and realise that liberal democracy is not a “given” – even in America, and that a return to tyranny anywhere and everywhere on the globe is quite possible if good men do nothing while the flakes in Government continue with their unrealistic plans.
    The fruits:
    – Iraq – “they will meet us with flowers”
    – Afghanistan – why don’t Afghans want to be Americans?
    – Syria
    – Egypt
    – The belief that the American economy will return to “business as usual”.
    – The American dream.
    – Everybody wants to be like us, they hate us for our freedoms.
    These are our myths.
    Be aware that the NSA surveillance state scandal, torture as a strategy, drone warfare, the Patriot Act, excessive secrecy and the associated war on leakers, and the militarisation of the police are all hallmarks of a developing totalitarian state. Yes it can happen here.
    Be aware that the Catholic Church believes that the entire Reformation and the “great experiment” is but a speed bump in the glorious History of the Church. The Church will rise again if you let it, and a revived Christian theocracy of any flavor would have no qualms about dealing with an Islamic theocracy either. Churches are not democratic organisations.
    …And we pretend that ours is the finest form of human organisation; as did the Pharaohs, Babylonians, Etruscans, Phoenicians, Mayans, Greeks, Romans and a Thousand other belief systems.

  28. J says:

    I was in a store just the other day and ran into some Saudi nationals, whereupon I conversed with them in Arabic as to how their Ramadan and Eid went. One whom I had conversed with in the past several months previous, then asked me if I was Muslimmen, to which I replied ‘no’, whereupon his whole demeanor abruptly changed to which that I was no longer fit to converse with in Arabic and he ran onto his other shopping endeavors talking with his other national buddy to get this and that, he ran I might say like a ruptured duck. I laughed to myself inside regarding the whole affair. His abrupt demeanor change spoke volumes, LOL.

  29. Mark Kolmar says:

    I’ll defend my earlier opinion that military aid to Egypt from the U.S. can be used as leverage. Last time I said this, it would have been leverage against Morsi, by implication in favor of the military backstop. I am deeply disappointed by the military’s impatience. Would it be appropriate now to talk for leverage, as if the U.S. funding might be reduced?

  30. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I rather discount it; look at what happened in Algeria.

  31. confusedponderer says:

    The point is probably not that military aid is not leverage but rather how long a lever it is.
    Will the leverage suffice to make the Egyptian military do things they see fundamentally at odds with their interests? Probably not.
    Right now, the US needs probably the Egyptians more than the Egyptians need the US. That would put the Egyptians in a relative position of strength, in which they will be disinclined to give in to US pressures.
    There is only so much that freebies can buy you.
    Imagine a guy going to a bar buying drinks to everybody, or rather, imagine him handing out vouchers to everybody for buying beer brewed in his brewery (only) – in the expectation that everybody will love him in return.
    The only reliable outcome would IMO be the temporary gratitude of the resident alcoholics. Others would probably just take the drinks. Others still would dislike the strings attached, and just keep ordering their drinks elsewhere because they prefer other beer, or only drink liquor anyway.
    I’d rank the odds low that all the ladies will now want to bed the generous donor, and perhaps the ladies then so inclined are not what one wants to take home. And I totally ignore what the innkeeper will say about the vouchers, because that would wreck the analogy.

  32. jr786 says:

    This whole thing is sickening. Over 600 people have been murdered, thousands more injured, because they have different political opinions. The word extermination has surfaced, in the apparently common belief that the Islamist (always poorly defined) is the new huk, commie, gook, the unidisputed reigning threat to life on this planet as we know it.
    I’m curious to know if some of the more pragmatic posters, the ones who don’t feel particularly outraged, would be too put out if the military just went ahead and started killing everyone who fits the bill of Islamist agitator; I imagine they haven’t yet become insurgents or else such a question would be irrelevant.
    Only Denmark showed the correct reaction. Cut off US aid? Unthinkable, the renewed coziness between the Egyptian military and Israel precludes that.

  33. turcopolier says:

    Sentimental tripe. as in the case of Mursi/MB all Islamist governments define themselves by their intention to create a sharia law state that relegates all those who are not devotees to second or third class status . the actions of the Mursi mobs toward Coptic churches are indicative of their true sentiments whatever they may say while leading the sheep to the knife. pl

  34. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Evidently the Egyptian military has discounted that possibility. The generals in Egyt probably have concluded that US will continue to rent them because they are the only game in town.

  35. turcopolier says:

    We “rent them?” To what purpose? It is evident that they are not taking instructions from us and they have little combat power. The only reason they get money from the USA is the desire of the Israelis that we do so. pl

  36. Fred says:

    So Denmark’s silence on the ethnic cleansing of the Christian communities in Egypt by Mr. Morsi’s government and the MB is the ‘correct’ reaction?

  37. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Well, I assumed they do something for US; what I am hearing from you is that they do not.
    You are better informed than I; I am on the outside looking at it from a transactional point of view.

  38. turcopolier says:

    The sole purpose of the US military aid is to support the Egypt/Israel treaty. pl

  39. turcopolier says:

    The amusing thing about the salafist hatred of the Copts is that the Copts are inert as a political force. pl

  40. confusedponderer says:

    for one, the US bought the Egyptians out of the Soviet camp. In light if that Camp David was quite a foreign policy coup.
    What the US get out of it now is that the Egyptian army secures Israel’s Gaza border and so helps Israel dominate the Palestinians and allows Israel to focus on threats, real or perceived, from Syria and Lebanon, and nowadays Iran (which in itself underlines Israel’s rather safe position, considering that Iran is the only remaining challenge to them – and a couple countries and a thousand kilometers away).
    As I see it, there is a reaon why Israel was able to focus on Lebanon and Syria from the mid 1970s on – the Egyptians were having their back.
    In a sense, it was the Israeli-Egyptian treaty that paved the way not fust for peace between the two countries, but also to the wars Israel was able to fight in the north in the years after. The Israelis probably could not have afforded that if they had to take into account a threat by Egypt, and Jordan wasn’t a factor either.
    Israel’s (somnewhat teutonic) fear of encirclement and multi-front wars isn’t any longer rooted in reality after Camp David and in light of Israel’s vastly superior military strength vis a vis their neighbours. Should Islamist regimes come to power that would cease to be true rather sooner than later, but that woule be a mere nuisance compared to the threat posed by the arsenals that Syria and Egypt had in their heyday.
    As it is now, the military aid to Egypt serves Israel’s interests primarily, and partisan US interests to the extent that it placates a powerful domestic lobby.

  41. turcopolier says:

    “The sole purpose of the US military aid is to support the Egypt/Israel treaty. pl” I am not as verbose as you. pl

  42. confusedponderer says:

    Yes, you indeed put it quite concisely.

  43. Fred says:

    Yes, it is easy to beat a dog that has no teeth and a sad commentary on the values of a person (or a people) who would do so.

  44. wilson says:

    Thanks for the detailed reply.
    Agreed about the track record of theocracies.
    They better get going on that “managerial state” fast, more bad news today. It’s critical that someone (who has the credibility and authority?) communicates to the Army the need to get grip and end the bloodshed – stat.

  45. walter says:

    Sorry bout the caps…it just seems to me that we are trying to appear to the people of the Middle East and the world that we support democracy by backing elections only after our favored dictators lose their power (Mubarek), or we were not effective in throwing the elections our way (Chalabi, Alawi in Iraq; Hamas in Palestine).
    The Neocons are not interested in democracy, are they? Didnt they have Chalabi hand picked to rule Iraq because we thought he would play ball with us? Havent we always backed our favored candidates with underhanded methods rather than letting the will of the people rule unfettered?
    It still seems to me that our foreign policy as pursuing our same selfish interests with an added marketing effort of appearing to back elections and democracy when convenient but still backing autocracies for the most part (Saudi, Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt until the people ousted Mubarek, Jordan, etc)
    Perhaps I am too cynical.

  46. turcopolier says:

    I think you have to ask yourself if you really believe that all fairly elected governments are good and all unelected governments are bad. pl

  47. cloned_poster says:

    Israel could show some leadership here. After all, we all have lived in a Moses basket.

  48. Mark Kolmar says:

    When the protests began against Mubarak, I grimly expected the kind of crowd control we see now, or worse. The MB demonstrators who are unruly and inconvenient do not deserve to be bulldozed out of their campsites either. Elements who are violent, destroy property, and systematically persecute are another matter. Why such a heavy response this time?
    It did not help when the non-Islamist leaders walked away from the process of drafting the constitution. And so ElBaradei resigned. If the U.S., the West generally, and secular influences want to affect the direction, or moderate, it probably would be helpful to be in the room, or near the room. ElBaradei’s office gave him that. U.S. aid does that. The money is a topic by itself, even if it doesn’t provide any influence in some areas.
    If the elections were too early last time, looks like that mistake is not going to be repeated. Meanwhile, can the MB or factions be brought back into politics in a representative government, with strong enough minority rights and sufficiently organized opposition to check the excess and extremes?

  49. turcopolier says:

    Mark Kolmar
    these mobs are seen as an existential threat to the existence of an Egypt that is other than a theocratic state. The liberals walked out of the constitutional process because the MB and Mursi were clearly intent on creating an Islamic theocracy that would have been invulnerable to democratic process. What else could they do? pl

  50. Babak Makkinejad says:

    What astonished me about MB was that they seem to have disappointed or otherwise alienated everyone during their year in power.

  51. turcopolier says:

    Not quite “everyone,” there are people in the streets dying for them. pl

  52. Madhu says:

    I ran across a book on Amazon called “Modernization as Ideology” and in the introduction, the book talks about the way in which the modernization or transformation of other cultures forms a sort of ideology for the so-called “Washington Consensus.” Academics may talk about how dated some of these models are, and political science may go on its own merry way, but, for some reason, dated intellectual concepts stay rooted within the Beltway “thinking” class. I ran across a paper directed at the military using the terminology of a “human battlespace”.
    What a perversion of language! An example:
    “Hence, the various demographic units that make up the human battlespace should be made stakeholders of the nation building process.”
    So, human beings in all their complexity, complication, soulfulness, goodness AND evilness, are now the oddly termed “human battlespace,” and it is the job of international institutions coupled with American military or coalition power to work on this “human battlespace” in order to produce the vaunted stability.
    It’s not that I oppose working with others but it is bizarre, the language and the hyperconfidence in molding outcomes.
    The more time I spend in the intellectual world of the foreign policy professionals (admittedly, as a “observing on the internet outsider”), the more Alice-in-Wonderland I start to feel….

  53. Madhu,
    The book you cite appears to be a compendium of delusions. The problem is not simply that so many in contemporary Washington and London believe that the whole world is on some ineluctable trajectory towards ‘modernity’. It is that the world idea of a ‘modern’ world, completely distinct from came before, is claptrap.
    You give me an excuse to quote again a favourite poem of mine. The greatest American writer, Herman Melville, is in my view much underestimated as a writer of verse. The poem he wrote about the draft riots in New York in 1863 is, I think, a classic statement of a pessimistic conservative vision which remains as relevant today as it was then. The second half seems worth quoting in full:
    The town is taken by its rats — ship-rats
    And rats of the wharves. All civil charms
    And priestly spells which late held hearts in awe—
    Fear-bound, subjected to a better sway
    Than sway of self; these like a dream dissolve
    And man rebounds whole aeons back in nature.
    Hail to the low dull rumble, dull and dead,
    And ponderous drag that jars the wall.
    Wise Draco comes, deep in the midnight roll
    Of black artillery; he comes, though late;
    In code corroborating Calvin’s creed
    And cynic tyrannies of honest kings;
    He comes, nor parlies; and the Town, redeeemed,
    Gives thanks devout; nor, being thankful, heeds
    The grimy slur on the Republic’s faith implied,
    Which holds that man is naturally good,
    And—more—is Nature’s Roman, never to be scourged.
    (See )

  54. Madhu says:

    I’m sorry but don’t understand your point? I thought the book was expressly about pointing out the delusions, of which there are many?

  55. Madhu,
    All I meant to imply was that the volume to which you referred appeared to summarise a body of contemporary Western delusions. It was not my purpose to suggest that it shared them.
    The point I wanted to add was that catastrophic social collapse, and mob psychology, have not been entirely alien to ‘Western’ experience in the past, and there is no reason whatsoever to be confident that they will not be so again. The Terror and the imperialistic military despotism of Napoleon are part of ‘modernity’, as is German National Socialism and indeed Stalinism — quite as much as the rather civilised order brought to Western Europe by the post-war ‘Pax Americana’.

  56. Mark Kolmar says:

    Col. Lang, the let’s-say liberals could have stayed and pressed forward even if they got no distance. Does ElBaradei, do other secular consultants have something much better to do? Are they being threatened?
    I’ll go on to new threads as time allows.

Comments are closed.