The developments in Egypt and especially Morsi’s brave actions are spreading a feeling of déjà vu through Turkey. The concrete response to the feeling that “We have seen these developments before” corresponds entirely to the history of Turkey’s last 10 years. This history has covered a long period, but the events repeat themselves and settle into short, smaller periods. Because of this precedent, Morsi’s speed is not shocking.
Turkey and Egypt are two countries with parallel histories. They have both affected and been affected by the other. Egyptian and Turkish societies are ethnically diverse; they are pretty much the same. They resemble each other in the debate between folk culture, traditionalism and modernism. The issue where they most reflect each other is in the military community and its strategic position in politics. In this regard Egypt is a country that presented a model and then exported this model to Muslim communities, beginning with Turkey. Years after former Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser’s coup, its exact replica was carried out in Turkey. However, because the Turkish army is tied to NATO’s army, leadership by dictate did not turn to an anti-imperialist, nationalistic ideology. A doctrine similar to the Baath doctrine was not created, but the two countries’ armies used the same tools.
The Egyptian army is not only a defense organization; it is, at the same time, a huge economic and social organization. The half-economic, half-military structure has been incorporated and spread into the economic arena; it controls society using the tools at its disposal. The army, having won autonomy inside the state, was doing its job according to the system whose rules it had designed. Today it is necessary to emphasize two basic changes that render Morsi’s overcoming the monumental strength of the army possible. The first is that a coalition established by the army with a dictator like Hosni Mubarak has lost its meaning after the change to democracy.
The dynamics which brought Mubarak down also made the boundless control at the hands of the army impossible. And the second fundamental change is the natural transformation taking place in the social and financial structures. The development of the economy by way of its own dynamics weakened the military financial sector -- which functions in a way that is vastly removed from the notion of competition -- thereby decreasing its significance. Secondly, the elite of Egyptian society are not just soldiers. A new elite group has tried to clear the way for itself through higher means than the military while the social transformation is taking place. While in traditional Eastern societies, soldiers were the most educated, intellectual and equipped upper echelon, this is no longer the case. The priority of the military in the elite circles is fading as they are being pushed to the backburner. Just as is the case in Turkey.
What is next is the deciphering of the Egyptian Ergenekon and later on its purging. There have been a slew of events with a high chance of provocation, such as the attack against the church in Alexandria at the beginning of last year. The attack against the police in the northern Sinai city of El-Arish is interpreted as the attempt by the military to maintain their privileged status. Would soldiers commit murders and then point their fingers at Islamic organizations just to maintain their power? This is quite possible, as we have come to know through the ongoing Ergenekon trial in Turkey.
What was expected of Morsi in the face of provocations was for him to remain steadfast and brave. And Morsi is not letting anyone down. This new step certainly appears set to purge the deep state in Egypt, as well as give way to investigations. And the real dynamic which will ease the way for these developments is the erosion of the military’s reputation. In the international arena, Egypt does not deserve the lagging status that it has today. The steering wheel of the country, now in the hands of Morsi, appears to be the only opportunity that will carry Egypt forward.
It is evident that history is but repetition in Middle Eastern communities.