Organizational Communications 504
The political upheavals that shook much of the Arab World when the Arab Spring first broke out in 2010 introduced the region to a political trend that has swept much of the world during the 20th century – democratization. Although the Arab World is, in many ways, a “late-bloomer” in terms of adopting democratic virtues, the fact that several people from Arab nations have expressed their dissent through manifestations distinct to the globalized world shows how globalization has opened the eyes of the people against authoritarian regimes (Smith &Gaviria, 2013). The mass demonstrations that toppled long-standing authoritarian figures in nations such as Egypt, Tunisia and Libya provide valuable insights detailing the extent of detestations people from Arab nations have held against authoritarianism. Manners of organization, driven by the hatred people from Arab nations have against authoritarianism, took on remarkably democratic forms such as the use of social media for planning and congregating public protests, all of which hold one objective – to overthrow authoritarian regimes (Anderson, 2011).
Emphasizing that the Arab Spring is by no means a “one-size-fits-all” movement thus provides due regard to the varying cases of nations in the Arab World in terms of their respective political economies. In light of the foregoing, one must ask, what are the factors that contribute to the progress or regress of democratization in nations in the Arab World following the Arab Spring? Have nations in the Arab World completely democratized, or does the premise against democratization as an incompatible political trend in the region continue to stand firm on its ground? What are the dynamics surrounding the political economies of nations in the Arab World? A closer look at one of the nations in the Arab World affected by the Arab Spring, Egypt, stands as a reckonable case that can provide answers to the aforementioned questions. Why Egypt remains entrenched in institutional structures – the Egyptian military, in particular, is a matter of further elaboration.
Background: The Democratizing Arab World
The Arab Spring in Egypt
President Hosni Mubarak has held onto power throughout Egypt as its authoritarian leader for the past 30 years. Marked by cases of oppression and corruption, Mubarak grew largely unpopular in the eyes of many Egyptians, with many of them having suffered the effects of poor political economic management such as lack of social services, poor education and severe lack of economic opportunities, alongside manifestations of exploitative labor practices and overarching poverty across Egypt. Despite initially impressive political economic gains attributed to the leadership of Mubarak, particularly those that greatly benefited the lucrative Egyptian energy sector, his beleaguered administration did not get away from the scrutiny of Egyptians, with their desire for democratization having grown each passing day (Smith & Gaviria, 2013). Free and fair elections, being the foremost of the demands Egyptians have in their quest for democratization during the Arab Spring, led to the election of a new leader following the successful deposition of Mubarak, President Mohammed Morsi of the Islamic political group Muslim Brotherhood (Levinson & Bradley, 2013).
Yet, Morsi did not last long as President in an era supposedly known as the start of democratization in Egypt following the 30-year rule of Mubarak. The conservative Muslim Brotherhood, alleged of planning to turn Egypt into an Islamic state, proved the main reason behind the immediate downfall of Morsi, whose move to introduce constitutional amendments to provide himself with greater political powers drew the ire of both the opposition, led by the National Salvation Front (NSF), and the well-established Egyptian military, touted as the core of the so-called “deep state” in Egypt. While many would call the ouster of Morsi as a regression of democratization in Egypt and thus, a failure of the Arab Spring that swept Mubarak off from his 30-year old regime, it is nonetheless a manifestation of the strength of the deep state, as it is entrenched on the Egyptian political economy. At the same time, questions on whether democracy would apply to the Egyptian setting has been raised in light of the continued legitimacy of the Egyptian military as a powerful influence in Egypt (Levinson & Bradley, 2013; Smith & Gaviria, 2013).
The Egyptian Military and the “Deep State”
The Egyptian military, which has since embedded itself within Egyptian society during the time of Mubarak, has accumulated ill-gotten wealth in the form of properties and business interests throughout Egypt, alongside the fact that it enjoyed the support of the United States (US), whose interests lie against the attempt of Morsi to impose Sharia law through the nation. Denoted as perhaps the most influential force behind the Egyptian economy, the Egyptian military has been involved in a large number of business ventures in Egypt, owning several industries that produce a wide range of products and services from basic necessities to large-scale industrial productions. Egypt has since been under the strong influence of the Egyptian military for 60 years, embodied by its “vast economic empireincluding manufacturing, construction, fuel, energy and more” (Sennott, 2013), many of which acquired through “a network rife with cronyism and corruption” (Sennott, 2013) during the Mubarak regime. The deep state refers to the strong network of members of the 350,000-strong Egyptian military, many of which are educated at the US Army War College (Sennott, 2013).
Additionally, the strong affiliation of the Egyptian military with the US has since made it a reckonable force against state elements in Egypt that conflict with both of their interests. Notwithstanding the fact that the US has suspended aid on Egypt, the Egyptian military remains a legitimate force, having forged a formidable alliance with secular liberals in preventing the progression of plans to turn Egypt into an Islamic state by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian military saw the move of the US in suspending the $1.3 billion worth of aid annually it provides as a form of pressure against the interim government it has established following the ouster of Morsi. The US maintained that the suspension of its aid was done in regard to the turmoil in Egypt following numerous violent conflicts between the Egyptian military and supporters of Morsi, which led to a deadly crackdown amounting to hundreds of casualties. Despite of the foregoing, the Egyptian military has kept its place in Egypt firmly, particularly due to the perfect timing of collaborating with secular liberals against the rule of Morsi, which supposedly replaced them through the deposal of Mubarak (BBC News Middle East, 2013).
In the case of the Muslim Brotherhood, represented by Morsi and ultimately exposed through his move to grant himself constitutional powers allegedly aimed at ultimately imposing an Islamic state in Egypt, both the Egyptian military and the US have severely opposed it. Such gave the deep state the momentum to overthrow Morsi, cleverly mobilizing itself with the help of the largely-secular Egyptian population that formed protests against the Muslim Brotherhood on June 30, 2013 (Ahmed & Capoccia, 2014; Levinson & Bradley, 2013). The decision of the Egyptian military to collaborate with secular liberals also allowed was justified over its dissatisfaction over the hasty decision of Morsi to widen his political clout, with its key positions granted by no less than the new constitution ushered in by the new democratic government playing significant roles. Thus, it has emerged that Morsi himself was key to his own downfall in granting the Egyptian military with opportunities to influence his government, with military officers having occupied the defense minister post and the eight slots allotted for them at the National Defense Council, alongside being granted the right to try civilians in military tribunals (Momani, 2013; Stepan & Linz, 2013).
Strategies and Implementation: “Remaining in Power”
Individuals in Organizations: Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi
Being the current President of the Third Republic of Egypt, Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi quietly yet assuredly took the reins of power in a fashion consistent with that of the Egyptian military, the organization he represents, throughout its dominant years in power. Deemed as a relative stranger to Egyptians prior to the Arab Spring, al-Sisi has remarkable secured his rise to power through his staunch showing of support for Egyptians who wanted Morsi out of office, alongside his professional attitude that showed no indication of political ambition before his loudest critics (Springborg, 2014). The crucial position held by al-Sisi today makes him an important subject of analysis that helps define the strategies of the Egyptian military in further propagating the deep state, notwithstanding the spirit of democratization that flourished during the Arab Spring. The instrumentality of al-Sisi in deposing Morsi is largely attributed to his positions as defense minister and armed forces commander-in-chief during the short-lived and largely-Muslim Brotherhood-backed regime (Springborg, 2014).
An important consideration about the rise of al-Sisi to prominence in Egypt is the fact that he rose through the ranks of the Egyptian military through a comprehensive system of patronage made possible by its economic gains. As a product of such a system, al-Sisi thrived well for his loyalty as the protégé of Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, who consistently promoted him to positions in the Egyptian military as a result of the tasks given to him. Patronage, however, is not the only outcome of the rise of al-Sisi, as he has also received formal training and networks overseas from the Joint Services Command and Staff College (JSCSC) of the United Kingdom (UK) and the US Army War College, alongside his stint in Saudi Arabia as military attaché. Having undergone several appointments to posts that include being a commander (battalion, brigade and division) and chief of staff (mechanized infantry of the Northern Military Zone) at different levels, al-Sisi has become an out-and-out military professional that has firmly secured his place of importance within the Egyptian military (Springborg, 2014).
A strategic aspect characterizing the essence of al-Sisi to the continued influence of the Egyptian military in the political and economic affairs of Egypt is the fact that he had access to important information on the Muslim Brotherhood. Tapped as a “contact person” of the Muslim Brotherhood for the SCAF by Tantawi, al-Sisi proved to be very convincing in establishing communications with the Muslim Brotherhood through his conservative Islamic upbringing. The personal life of al-Sisi is primarily characterized by his identity as a devout Muslim adhering to the tradition set forth by his religious family. Fearless in advocating Islamic virtues, al-Sisi articulated his thoughts coherently even towards the West and is noted for his consistent use of verses from the Koran each and every single day, may it be on public speeches or personal communications. The devoutness of al-Sisi to Islam proved vital to his purpose as perhaps the most trusted man of the Muslim Brotherhood from the Egyptian military. From there, al-Sisi has cultivated for himself the seeds that would bring the presidency of Morsi to its immediate end (Springborg, 2014).
When the time came that Morsi had to replace Tantawi in the defense minister and commander-in-chief posts, al-Sisi became the instant preference. In becoming the defense minister and commander-in-chief, al-Sisi demanded Morsi not to portray Tantawi, alongside other figures of the Egyptian military, as detrimental figures to the new democratic order. Through that, al-Sisi instantly tightened the noose around the neck of the short-lived rule of Morsi, which would tighten in the days leading to the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood from power. Remarkably, al-Sisi was able to secure full control of the Egyptian military through the agreement of Morsi to the conditions he has set, having led it to a peaceful transition based on the relative lack of negative publicity, notwithstanding its essence to the continuity of the deep state. Honorable retirements and assignments for military officials, all without the interference of the public, became possible when al-Sisi was both defense minister and commander-in-chief at the same time. Such was a highly strategic move in that it both made al-Sisi popular in the Egyptian military and legitimate enough to contribute to the deposition of Morsi through securing power under his brief regime (Springborg, 2014).
There is thus no doubt that the Muslim Brotherhood clearly believed al-Sisi to be its key ally, thinking that he would contribute to its cause in leading Egypt towards democratic state-building. Yet, little did the Muslim Brotherhood know that it was dealing with an agent of the deeply-ingrained deep state as it failed to understand the extent of its hindrances to full democratization in Egypt. Nonetheless, al-Sisi has become successful in his rather effortless image-building that packaged himself as a trusted figure before the very establishment the Egyptian military has sought to phase out, with religion playing a key role (Aly, 2014). Most of the time, al-Sisi retained a respectful demeanor to Morsi, yet their slightest differences in issues somewhat provided clear indications of an eventual fallout. The security interests of the Egyptian military in both the Sinai Peninsula and Suez Canal, wherein it has strong economic control due to its industries, were an issue dealt accordingly by al-Sisi against the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood. With regard to that, al-Sisi prevented Morsi from taking control of said areas under the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood – a move that provided initial friction (Springborg, 2014).
The amendment of the Egyptian Constitution in 2012 also ensured that the Egyptian military would gain greater legitimacy in Egypt through its assignment of privileges that are more bountiful than past amendments. Such took place despite the fact that the majority of those who took part in the amendatory process were members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Even a month prior to the deposition of Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood had nothing but praise for the Egyptian military – a manifestation of its damaging show of faith. However, tensions grew when the Muslim Brotherhood, specifically through deputy general guide and financier Khairat al-Shatir, grew overconfident in the foregoing relationship to the extent that it has failed to show a modicum of respect in interacting with the Egyptian military. Such overzealousness even went to the point that Morsi falsely thought that al-Sisi would remain loyal to him, even though the latter has already announced in an ultimatum on July 1, 2012 “that the President had to take account of the will of the people or the military would be compelled to act” (Aly, 2014; Springborg, 2014). Delusion and failure to take into consideration the bigger picture of the deep state led to the downfall of the Muslim Brotherhood from power, ultimately through the ouster of Morsi.
With the removal of both Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood from power, al-Sisi started to turn the tables completely on them, mainly through the appointment of one of their most hated figures in the Egyptian military, General Mohammed Farid al-Tohamy. Being a mentor of al-Sisi in mechanized infantry and intelligence, Tohamy rose to power not only as a blow to the short-lived ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood, but also to deal with them apprehensively as enemies of the state. Formally retired from the military, Tohamy took over the reins of the Administrative Oversight Authority (AOA) as Director. The AOA served as the primary vehicle of the Egyptian military in concealing the misdeeds of all those sitting in the post-Morsi government, particularly military officials. Tohamy was primarily responsible for labelling the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group, henceforth legitimizing all moves to go against its operations by virtue of efforts to crack them down. As a result, more than 1,000 protesters touted to be Muslim Brotherhood members were killed in the first two weeks following the appointment of Tohamy (Springborg, 2014).
There is certainly no doubt about the interests of al-Sisi representing that of the Egyptian military and it clearly shows that he has been instrumental in establishing its continuity as a reckonable force in Egypt, with even greater legitimacy than before as affirmed by the amendment of the Egyptian Constitution in 2012 during the time of Morsi (Springborg, 2014). Key to the credibility of al-Sisi not only in the national level, but also internationally as well, is his emphasis on promoting development in Egypt following the chaos of the Arab Spring. Thus, al-Sisi has expressed his affirmative views on increasing employment opportunities, attracting Arab and non-Arab investments, redrawing administrative boundaries, introducing revisions to the legal system, heightening security within the nation and the Arab World and securing peace with Israel (Aly, 2014). Although it remains to be seen whether al-Sisi would truly become capable of his plans for promoting development in Egypt, it is nonetheless understandable that he would have to fulfill the interests of the Egyptian military and its ensuing deep state throughout the nation, hence his current dilemma in balancing the international standing of the nation and the continuation of the domestic condemnation of the Muslim Brotherhood (Aly, 2014).
Leadership and Management Communication: Timed Intervention and Survival
For the past 60 years, the Egyptian military has maintained a strong hold on the political and economic affairs of Egypt, having influenced policies and benefited from patronage in order for it to keep a firm hold on many of its economic interests throughout the nation. Yet, the Arab Spring has threatened the Egyptian military with regard to its continued hold on power. The inevitable question was thus raised: “would the Egyptian military endure the pressure of democratization manifested by no less than the Egyptian people during the Arab Spring?” A closer look at the facts reveal that the Egyptian military, while being at the background throughout much of the Mubarak regime, has been the real power behind the lack of democracy in Egypt. With Mubarak being the face of authoritarianism in Egypt, the Egyptian people was somewhat misled to think that his removal from power would actually usher in a new era for greater democratization in their nation (Stepan & Linz, 2013).
During the Arab Spring, the Egyptian people failed to realize that the Egyptian military, with its formidable network of structures and institutions that has kept Mubarak in power for 30 years in as much as it benefited from him, is actually the main culprit that they should have targeted. Even so, it is noteworthy to emphasize that the Egyptian people would have failed anyway had they focused their energies against the Egyptian military during the Arab Spring, what with its strong control over the politics and economy of Egypt, although such remains a question of future research efforts (Sennott, 2013). Nonetheless, the Egyptian military took such an apparent evasion of focus during the Arab Spring as part of its highly strategic approach to the leadership and management of its own affairs. Moreover, the sheer magnanimity of the influence of the Egyptian military became more of an attraction for the feeble Muslim Brotherhood, which has sought, in vain, to become a legitimate force in Egyptian society (Momani, 2013).
The move of the Muslim Brotherhood to give the Egyptian military with greater roles under the constitutional amendments approved during the short-lived rule of Morsi manifests the foregoing argument, in effect foolishly subjecting the former to further submission to the latter (Levinson & Bradley, 2013). Even more interesting is the fact that the Egyptian military has seized the opportunity to formally control the Egyptian government once again, as in the time of Mubarak, by risking itself through an alliance with a group that, while being in the same plane in terms of toppling Morsi, holds values that are potentially antithetical to its own interests: the secular liberals wanting to prevent an Islamic state under the Muslim Brotherhood. Such a highly strategic move fit for the situation at hand, while risking failure, reaped greater rewards for the Egyptian military, in effect enabling it to bring the deep state to further perpetuation, notwithstanding the existence of new democratic concessions such as the handling of elections, which it also utilized cleverly by placing al-Sisi to the presidency – a position supposedly formalized by no less than the Egyptian people (Aly, 2014; Springborg, 2014).
Thus, one could say that the Egyptian military has consistently retained its objective to keep its firm hold on Egypt in place because its leadership has taken on a transformational approach. Creativity and interactivity, in the case of the Egyptian military, took place through its risky move to collaborate with the secular liberals, particularly the NSF, whose voices in wanting to oust Morsi and remove elements of the Muslim Brotherhood from the Egyptian government were loud and clear (Levinson & Bradley, 2013; Sennott, 2013). The charismatic approach of al-Sisi with the Muslim Brotherhood prior to its downfall has also increased the trustworthiness of the Egyptian military under the rule of Morsi, as manifested in his constitutional amendments. The use of the concept of development as a by-word of al-Sisi also raised the profile of the Egyptian military before the Egyptian people (Aly, 2014). All of the foregoing have provided outcomes that, when combined, now account for the increased legitimacy of the Egyptian military and the continuation of its political and economic interests collectivized under the deep state.
The vision, empowerment and passion of the Egyptian military in its leadership and management affairs all contributed to its enduring presence in Egypt, best manifested by the deep state. In light of the growing calls for democratization in Egypt during the Arab Spring, which the Egyptian people earnestly believed would bring development to the nation in light of the stunted political and economic progress throughout much of the latter years of Mubarak in power (Bellin, 2012), the Egyptian military, through al-Sisi as President, made development – in multi-faceted forms, as its vision for transforming crisis-ridden Egypt. It is in the foregoing tone as well in which the Egyptian military has positioned its empowering stance before the Egyptian people (Aly, 2014). Internally, the Egyptian military also chose to treat people among its ranks with a great degree of prestige and respect, as seen in the move of al-Sisi to retire military officials in his time as defense minister through a strategic agreement he has made with Morsi, in turn leading to the constitutional amendments that gave it greater legitimacy. Finally, it appears that the passion of the Egyptian military to keep its long-held control over Egypt, specifically in its political and economic interests, has grown stronger in lieu of its usage of transformative leadership and management strategies, many of which have flirted with failure (Aly, 2014; Springborg, 2014).
Participating in Organizations: Ousting the Muslim Brotherhood
In terms of decision-making for the sake of keeping hold on interests, the Egyptian military has proven itself to be an excellent one. The risky move of the Egyptian military in forming a coalition with secular liberals is by no means compatible by initial impression, yet its success is anchored on the fact that democratization requires such an alliance to be forged. In other words, the secular liberals calling out for the ouster of Morsi are also looking for a more established group that would help facilitate their objective. The Egyptian military, being that group, proved instrumental in removing not just Morsi, but the Muslim Brotherhood from power (Ahmed & Capoccia, 2014; Hauslohner, 2013). At the same time, by no means can the secular liberals can call their decision to collaborate with the Egyptian military a kiss of death, since it somewhat helped them keep their place in the absence of a crackdown led against them – one that has disestablished the Muslim Brotherhood under the immediate post-Arab Spring order in Egypt. Potentially, such liberal-conservative alliance can lead to further moves towards democratization in Egypt, but as long as the “old guard” – the Egyptian military and its deep state, remains in power, there lies the risk that full democracy will have yet to take place (Ahmed & Capoccia, 2014).
Strategic Organizational Communication: The Deep State Vis-à-vis Democratization
The strategic organizational communication of the Egyptian military is developed both in its internal and external aspects, hence the deeply embedded nature of the deep state. Internally speaking, the Egyptian military has been able to develop a comprehensive set of networks between its various departments that has been the key to the rise of leaders like al-Sisi – whose posts include being the head of the battalion, brigade and division commands, infantry and intelligence, from their ranks. For instance, al-Sisi was vital to representing the interests of the various stakeholders from both the Egyptian military and the Muslim Brotherhood as defense minister, as apparent in his move to retire military officers and lobby concessions for them to be granted greater roles under the Morsi administration, in the form of constitutional amendments (Springborg, 2014). Externally, the results of the liberal-conservative alliance with the secular liberals in the deposal of Morsi indicates success on the part of the Egyptian military (Ahmed & Capoccia, 2014; Hauslohner, 2013).
Evaluation: “Ironic for Democratization”
Key to the success of the Egyptian military in addressing the Muslim Brotherhood dilemma is its use of strong communication and technical competencies. Having been well-embedded in Egyptian society, the Egyptian military is aware of the very political and economic facets it manipulates for the maintenance and security of its interests in Egypt. The sudden rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power, while serving as a manifestation that the Egyptian people have had enough of the Mubarak regime, did not really indicate high dissatisfaction towards the Egyptian military. In fact, such highlighted the power and influence the Egyptian military has through the very move of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, in general, to accommodate it under greater roles in Egyptian political and economic affairs, as seen in the constitutional amendments. The Egyptian military, being aware of its advantages, also shrewdly formed a risky alliance with secular liberals without any fallout whatsoever, in turn enabling such partnership to fulfill a common goal – the deposal of Morsi, while allowing facets of democratization to take place in the form of elections as it still keeps its political and economic interests intact.
The organizational communications of the Egyptian military, given its goal to preserve the deep state, proved highly effective in terms of enabling to meet its various objectives. The Egyptian military has kept its desire to keep control of its political and economic interests intact and in doing so, it has established communications with different actors ranging from its own ranks, its nemesis the Muslim Brotherhood, to the secular liberals. Although the ways in which the Egyptian military have conducted its organizational communications have ultimately led them to secure power through democratic means, specifically through the electoral victory of al-Sisi, it remains to be seen how it would end up showing less interference with regard to maintaining the deep state. Indeed, the very existence of the deep state itself is ironic for democratization. Thus, the proven caliber of the Egyptian military in terms of organizational communication would not lead to the expulsion of the deep state in favor of a fully-functional democracy where it does not interfere in the affairs of the Egyptian government unless it becomes willing to drop its political and economic interests – a move that seems practically impossible at the moment.
Recommendation: “Consultations and Analysis on the Egyptian Political Economy”
For democracy to settle in completely in Egypt via the elimination of the deep state, the Egyptian military must prove itself to be cooperative in using its knowledge on the Egyptian political economy to finally let go of its political and economic interests, perhaps under the condition that their position be dignified through legalizing measures such as higher pay and benefits for all its members. A closer look at the Egyptian political economy through consultations and analysis could open opportunities for making privatization of industries from the hands of the Egyptian military viable, apart from making members of its ranks feel more dignified as stated in the foregoing. Yet, it is equally understandable as well that such would not be effective at the moment, for democracy has historically been proven to need time first for it to fully settle, what with the newly-elected al-Sisi at the helm of the presidency.
In conclusion, the Egyptian military is merely proven to have acted on its own according trying to survive the changes that threatened its existence, which became more resonant during the Arab Spring. Can organizational communications enable an organization to overturn the developments made via a social revolution involving democratization? The case of the Egyptian military provides conditions that satisfy the foregoing query, albeit such are highly circumstantial in nature and proceeded in ways that merely followed the outcomes of the Arab Spring in an opportunistic manner. Thus, the replicability of the case of the Egyptian military lies on great social embeddedness and influence, where organizations that are antithetical to democratization could prove itself to be strong enough to push through with politically strategic tactics, typically with great risk, successfully.
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