As Egyptians party in the streets to celebrate Egyptian President Mubarak’s “stepping down” and turning over power to a Military Council that will run the country, do they know, really know, what is in store for them?
Red Alert: Mubarak Resigns, Military is in Charge
Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden, speaking ahead of an expected statement in Washington by President Barack Obama, said the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation is a “pivotal moment” in history.
He spoke from the University of Louisville saying that the United States is seeking protection for civil rights and a path to democracy for the people of the African nation and that the U.S. has stood for a set of core principles during the uprising, including deeming violence against demonstrators “unacceptable” and calling for the respect of Egyptians’ rights. He said the U.S. has also urged that Egypt’s political transition be an “irreversible change” and a negotiated path toward democracy.
What kind of change?
Egypt’s military: Key facts
By the CNN Wire Staff, http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/africa/02/11/egypt.military.facts/
Key facts about Egypt’s military:
It is one of the world’s largest recipients of U.S. military aid. Washington agreed to a $13 billion, 10-year aid package to Egypt in 2007.
U.S. aid made up for 25% of Egypt’s defense spending in 2008, and the spending is for equipment of substantially U.S. manufacture and design, subject to U.S. Congress approval, according to Jane’s Intelligence. The equipment cannot affect the regional balance of power by surpassing that of Israeli forces, Jane’s said.
Morale in the military and paramilitary security forces is good, partly because of a higher standard of living among the military than the population as a whole, according to Jane’s Intelligence. The military monitors troops to keep Islamist influence in check.
President Hosni Mubarak was commander of Egypt’s air force during the 1973 war with Israel, which saw initial Arab victories before Israel’s counterattack defeated the Arab armies. Mubarak became President Anwar Sadat’s vice president in 1975 and became president when Sadat was assassinated in 1981.
Egyptian armed forces have newer, primarily U.S.-made equipment sitting beside older Soviet equipment purchased during the Nasser and Sadat eras.
Military branches are army, navy, air force and air defense command.
The army considers itself to be the backbone of the regime and the guarantor of national stability, according to Jane’s. Its 320,000 personnel make up almost three-quarters of the armed forces.
About 400,000 more Egyptians are members of the paramilitary security forces, used in the counterinsurgency campaigns of the late 1990s, according to Jane’s. The air force comprises 30,000 personnel and the navy 20,500 more. Egypt’s fear of Israeli air attack is evident in the 70,000 personnel in the air defense command.
Egypt’s military is among the largest in the Middle East. Older officers were trained in the Soviet Union, but younger ones studied in the west. Egypt regularly conducts joint military exercises with NATO.
Articles 180 to 183 of the Egyptian Constitution of 1971 say the armed forces “shall belong to the people” and are required “to defend the country, to safeguard its territory and security, and to protect the socialist gains of the people’s struggle,” according to globalsecurity.org.
The Constitution also says the defense of the homeland is a “sacred duty” and mandates compulsory conscription.
The president of the republic is the supreme commander of the armed forces.
Decision-making within the Ministry of Defense has rested almost solely with Minister of Defense Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, but during his tenure since 1991, “the tactical and operational readiness of the Egyptian Armed Forces has degraded,” according to globalsecurity.org.
Military spending is 3.4% of gross domestic product, compared with 4.6% in the United States, according to 2005 estimates in the CIA World Factbook.
Military service age is 18 to 30 years for male conscripts, for 12 to 36 months, followed by a 9-year reserve obligation.
The supreme commander of the armed forces was Mubarak.
Commander in chief of the armed forces and minister of defense and military production is Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi.
Chief of staff for armed forces (also army commander) is Lt. Gen. Sami Hafez Enan.
Speech of President Barack Obama on Egypt
Feb. 11, 2011
Today, from the White House, President Barack Obama said, “Egypt will never be the same.”
There are very few moments in our lives where we have the privilege to witness history taking place. This is one of those moments. This is one of those times.
The people of Egypt have spoken, their voices have been heard, and Egypt will never be the same.
By stepping down, President Mubarak responded to the Egyptian people’s hunger for change.
But this is not the end of Egypt’s transition. It’s a beginning. I’m sure there will be difficult days ahead, and many questions remain unanswered.
But I am confident that the people of Egypt can find the answers and do so peacefully, constructively, and in the spirit of unity that has defined these last few weeks, for Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day.
The military has served patriotically and responsibly as a caretaker to the state and will now have to ensure a transition that is credible in the eyes of the Egyptian people. That means protecting the rights of Egypt’s citizens, lifting the emergency law, revising the constitution and other laws to make this change irreversible, and laying out a clear path to elections that are fair and free.
Above all, this transition must bring all of Egypt’s voices to the table, for the spirit of peaceful protest and perseverance that the Egyptian people have shown can serve as a powerful wind at the back of this change.
The United States will continue to be a friend and partner to Egypt. We stand ready to provide whatever assistance is necessary, and asked for, to pursue a credible transition to a democracy.
I’m also confident that the same ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit that the young people of Egypt have shown in recent days can be harnessed to create new opportunity, jobs and businesses that allow the extraordinary potential of this generation to take flight.
And I know that a democratic Egypt can advance its role of responsible leadership not only in the region, but around the world.
Egypt has played a pivotal role in human history for over 6,000 years. But over the last few weeks, the wheel of history turned at a blinding pace as the Egyptian people demanded their universal rights. We saw mothers and fathers carrying their children on their shoulders to show them what true freedom might look like. We saw young Egyptians say, “For the first time in my life, I really count. My voice is heard. Even though I’m only one person, this is the way real democracy works.”
We saw protesters chant “selmeyah, selmeyah — “We are peaceful” — again and again. We saw a military that would not fire bullets at the people they were sworn to protect. And we saw doctors and nurses rushing into the streets to care for those who were wounded; volunteers checking protesters to ensure that they were unarmed.
We saw people of faith praying together and chanting Muslims, Christians, “We are one.” And though we know that the strains between faiths still divide too many in this world and no single event will close that chasm immediately, these scenes remind us that we need not be defined by our differences. We can be defined by the common humanity that we share.
And above all, we saw a new generation emerge — a generation that uses their own creativity and talent and technology to call for a government that represented their hopes and not their fears, a government that is responsive to their boundless aspirations.
One Egyptian put it simply: “Most people have discovered in the last few days that they are worth something. And this cannot be taken away from them anymore, ever.”
This is the power of human dignity, and it could never be denied. Egyptians have inspired us, and they’ve done so by putting the lie to the idea that justice is best gained through violence.
For an Egypt, it was the moral force of non-violence — not terrorism, not mindless killing — but non-violence, moral force that bent the arch of history toward justice once more.
And while the sights and sound that we heard were entirely Egyptian, we can’t help but hear the echoes of history, echoes from Germans tearing down a wall, Indonesian students taking to the streets, Gandhi leading his people down the path of justice.
As Martin Luther King said in celebrating the birth of a new nation in Ghana while trying to perfect his own, “There’s something in the soul that cries out for freedom.”
Those were the cries that came from Tahrir Square. And the entire world has taken note.
Today belongs to the people of Egypt, and the American people are moved by these scenes in Cairo and across Egypt because of who we are as a people, and the kind of world that we want our children to grow up in.
The word “Tahrir” means liberation. It is a word that speaks to that something in our souls that cries out for freedom. And forever more it will remind us of the Egyptian people, of what they did, of the things that they stood for and how they changed their country and in doing so changed the world.