Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The Liberalizing Effect of International Military Interchange Programs

One of the key inflection points in any revolution is the ultimate decision by the armed forces as to whether they will fire on the protesters. Generally, any decently-entrenched regime with a powerful military can survive street protests if the military continues to back it. If the military decides to stand down, however, things get a lot more interesting. This is one of the key differences between Egypt in 2011, and Iran in 2009. Iranian military and paramilitary forces were effectively deployed against the protesters, and demonstrated a willingness to crush the demonstrations. Moreover, Iran had a layer of redundancy built in -- even if the army wavered, the army had to fear the Revolutionary Guard, which is fanatically loyal to the existing regime.

So what is it that made the Egyptian army different? Though not as tied into the state apparatus as the IRC is in Iran, it certainly was known as relatively loyal to President Mubarak. Enter a really interesting argument by Mark Thompson:
Ever since the Camp David peace accords between Egypt and Israel, promising Egyptian military officers have come to U.S. military schools, including the Army War College in Carlisle, Penn., the Army’s Command General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. Inculcated there with U.S. ideals on lawful civilian control of military, such an education has helped act as a “safety” on the firepower of the Egyptian streets now massing in Cairo and in other cities.

“This new generation of Egyptian officers has been exposed to the American military and has had a very favorable impression of not just the way we fight our wars but also about the relationship between the military and society,” says Robert Scales, a retired Army major general who served as commandant of the Army War College where he launched the international fellows program. “One of the reasons for the army’s reluctance to follow Mubarak’s intent and squeeze the population in Cairo has to do with the Egyptian military’s exposure to the U.S. military.”

A little self-serving, perhaps -- particularly given the less than stellar record regarding human rights such interchange programs have assembled in the not-so-distant past. Nonetheless, there is some broader empirical research finding such a liberalizing effect correlated to U.S. military-to-military contacts. So it certainly isn't out of the question.

Definitely an interesting dynamic, if true. H/T: LGM.

10 comments:

N. Friedman said...

This sounds like a lot of phooey. The Egyptian army no doubt supports Mubarak but Mubarak is in his 80's. Hence, the Egyptian army is more than likely acting to protect the role of the military as leading force in the country. To be leading force, it is necessary not to lose an important source of the military's funding and supply of armaments, viz. the US.

Further, the army in Egypt is allegedly held in high regard by the people. Holding power without the requirement of Ba'athist type oppression means not alienating the people more than is necessary. And, as noted, it is not the army which, thus far, has been the target of the demonstrators.

Lastly, the VP, Omar Suleiman, is, if the army has it way, likely the heir apparent. He has good relations with the US, having been trained in the US and being tied to the Egyptian army. The army is, more than likely, looking for a transition to Suleiman over the course of months, exactly in line with Mubarak's pledge to end his rule after the election - i.e., the election which would place Suleiman in the lead.

This may all be, if it is their calculation, a miscalculation. It might not be. But, thinking that exposure to the US makes people tolerant is nonsense. Look south of the border if you require any proof of how nutty the article you have quoted is. I think you noticed that point as well, in your comment on the article.

In the meanwhile, there are some at least commendable articles about the revolt, including one by Richard Cohen in the Washington Post and one by Caroline Glick in the Jerusalem Post. Both see the current movement as likely having potential disastrous probability for the possibility of any peace. Cohen's article is less apocalyptic than Glick's is but the same logic runs through the writings of both. They may both be entirely wrong. There is also Tom Friedman's article, which takes the view that Israel needs to make peace now - and should be read as a counterweight to Glick's article (although it is not clear that Friedman's article is very logical but, of course, he may still be correct) and David Brook's article, which takes a completely different view of things.

PG said...

But, thinking that exposure to the US makes people tolerant is nonsense.

Who asserted any such thing? Tolerance =/= grasping the concept of war crimes and other violations of human rights law.

N. Friedman said...

"Tolerance =/= grasping the concept of war crimes and other violations of human rights law."

Read the passage cited by David. It refers to contact with the US having meritorious value so far as possibly dissuading troops from firing on their own people.

So far as the association you draw in your above quoted passage, there have been armies which have acted horribly notwithstanding such laws and acceptance of such concepts. And, there have been armies which have behaved well without such concepts. Tolerance has existed, to at least some degree, in numerous societies over the course of history and such has regulated how the armies of such societies behaved.

N. Friedman said...

Correction:

Strike: "And, there have been armies which have behaved well without such concepts."

Substitute:

And, there have been armies which have behaved well without such concepts or laws.

PG said...

OK, I don't understand what you mean by "tolerance." Dictionary definition:

1. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry.
2. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one's own.
3. interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one's own; a liberal, undogmatic viewpoint.

Which of these meanings are you saying would be manifested simply by being a military that doesn't fire upon protesters who are of the same race, religion, nationality, etc. as oneself (and whose opinions about how much inflation sucks probably don't differ much from the rank-and-file's)?

N. Friedman said...

PG,

By tolerant, I mean to tolerate those with differences, as in this definition: "Inclined to tolerate the beliefs, practices, or traits of others; forbearing."

And, we have seen, from time to time and place to place, tolerance occasionally displayed across the span of history, not just in the West and not just under the rule of International law.

In fact, our age of enlightened morality and International law has seen, in many ways, a serious decline in tolerance towards others. Which is to say, we live in an age where extermination has occurred in many civilizations, whether they claim the banner of law and tolerance or not. But, the numbers of people butchered in this tolerant age are staggering and dwarf most other ages of history. As Barbara Tuchman notes, with reference only to the West, in her book, A Distant Mirror, in terms of savagery, only the 14th Century in Europe rivals our age.

So, I do not buy your position at all.

PG said...

My initial comment was
Tolerance =/= grasping the concept of war crimes and other violations of human rights law.

In case it was unclear, that's saying "Tolerance is not the same as grasping the concept of war crimes and other violations of human rights law."

How does this differ from what you claim in your last comment?

I suspect we're in Episode #93423 of Not Actually Reading PG's Comment.

N. Friedman said...

PG,

I now gather that you meant to write the expression ≠. I had no idea, however, that =/= meant anything of the sort.

I decided, in view of your comment, to google what you actually wrote and it returned no responses at all. The same is true when I googled "= / =". I trust that =/= I would not be alone in misinterpreting what you wrote.

In any event, I viewed what you actually wrote as meaning more or less equal.

Now that I understand your comment, I do not see why you posted it in the first place. Please let me know so that I can, if appropriate, reply.

PG said...

Now that I understand your comment, I do not see why you posted it in the first place. Please let me know so that I can, if appropriate, reply.

In general, if you literally don't understand something in someone's comment, even after googling, it's advisable to ask her what she meant rather than assuming.

I posted the comment because you implicitly asserted, in stating "But, thinking that exposure to the US makes people tolerant is nonsense," that someone had said "exposure to the US makes people tolerant."

Yet neither David's post nor the pages to which it links refers to tolerance at all.

Instead, they refer to the Egyptian military officers' exposure to the U.S. military, in which general values of tolerance aren't at a high premium (coughDADTcough), but members are explicitly taught that firing on unarmed civilians is not good. As someone teaching at a military college once put it to me, "We use the newspaper rule: would you want what you did to show up on the front page of the newspaper?"

N. Friedman said...

PG,

I still do not see your point and stand by my original comment. You are reading more into the word tolerant, in my original sentence, than was appropriate.

Further, I do not think you read what David posted quite correctly. The gist was exposure to the US way of doing things somehow leads to good results for those exposed to it. That is, in the sense I wrote, exactly about tolerance.