Evolving Civil-Military Relations: A Comparative Analysis of Egypt, Turkey, and Pakistan

Photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy/Flickr |

By Faiqa Mahmood |

The Egyptian revolution of January 2011 brought a rare wave of unity, hope, and optimism to the Middle East. Egypt became a source of inspiration for the Arab region and beyond. The unprecedented eighteen-day revolution led to the fall of a thirty-year dictatorship, bringing together widely divergent groups and political actors for the common cause of freedom and dignity. However, the same Egyptian society that inspired others in its ability to peacefully unite, the most populous Arab nation in the world is today marked by deep societal schisms.

On June 30, 2013, a year after the post-revolutionary elections brought the Muslim Brotherhood- backed Freedom and Justice Party to power, mass protests brought Cairo to a halt. Protestors divided into two distinct camps, one side demanding that President Mohamed Morsi resign from office, while the other side insisted that he stays. As was the case during the January 2011 revolution, all eyes were on the military. On July 3, 2013, General Fattah al-Sisi announced the removal of his country’s first democratically elected president. He subsequently suspended the constitution and installed an interim government presided over by senior jurist Adly Mansour. Given the immense geostrategic importance of Egypt as a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, Egypt’s civil-military relations are now inevitably in the limelight.

This paper analyzes the role of the Egyptian military in politics, and considers how civil-military relations may be improved. It traces the historical development of civil-military relations in Egypt from the Gamal Nasser era to the present day. After a review of the relevant literature in the field, it then compares the situation in Egypt with Turkey and Pakistan. Turkey and Pakistan have been chosen for this analysis because they share two major similarities: both are Muslim-majority countries where the military plays a significant role in the politics and economics of the state. Like Egypt, both Turkey and Pakistan have a military history marked by military interventions, with diverging consequences for democracy in each case. Thus, this analysis looks to Turkey and Pakistan for comparison, with a view to deriving lessons for Egypt from their respective histories. Finally, recommendations are made for the development of strong and balanced civil-military relations in Egypt. While the militaries of neither Turkey nor Pakistan can boast the levels of civilian control present in some Western governments, there are still salient lessons one can draw from the evolutionary paths of both militaries, lessons that may aid Egypt’s transition towards heightened civilian control of the military.

Theoretical Underpinnings and Literature Review

The American, British, and Soviet militaries are all classic examples of civilian-controlled militaries. Their commanders obey civilian leaders and refrain from actively participating in domestic politics. On the opposite end of the spectrum fall praetorian militaries. Huntington defines praetorianism as militaries not bound by civilian control, that tend to restrict the operations of standard civilian government institutions.[1] Neither are they reluctant to take control of the state. However, according to Paul Staniland, most militaries fall somewhere in the middle.[2] To explain this variation within the spectrum of civil-military relations, theories focus on the configuration of internal versus external threats to the state. According to Samuel Huntington, the nature of international politics and increasing technological demands of warfare indicate that militaries have no choice but to become highly specialized and externally focused institutions.[3] Thus, “the functions of the officer become distinct from those of the politician and policeman.”[4]

Michael Desch uses both external and internal threats to explain variations in military intervention and in politics. As Desch puts it, “it is easiest for civilians to control the military when they face primarily international (external) threats and it is hardest for them to control the military when they face primarily domestic (internal) threats.”[5] Conversely, where there are wide-ranging internal threats, the military is required to make political decisions. In a society beset by both internal and external threats, civil-military relations are likely to be troubled. Praetorianism occurs most often in societies where internal threats are high, but external threats are low.[6] Table 1 summarizes the threat framework’s predictions.

Another segment of theories on civil-military relations focuses on domestic politics, defined as the military’s relationship with society-at-large as well as the military’s own belief system.[7] In his critique of Huntington, S.E. Finer contends that the very elements of military professionalism and specialization believed by Huntington to engender an apolitical military (such as its corporate character and a sense of social responsibility) may in fact encourage political intervention.[8] A specialized and well-armed military that functions as a fine-tuned corporate bureaucracy may believe that it has a social responsibility to intervene when civilian government fails to meet the demands of society.[9] Since such corporate bureaucracy and institutional efficiency may well be a result of external threats to the state, the very elements of professionalism as described by Huntington often lead to military intervention in domestic politics.[10]

Larry Diamond and Marc Plattner agree with Finer’s analysis. “Military establishments … intervene in politics (whether by coup or by a more gradual expansion of power and prerogatives) when civilian politicians and parties are weak and divided, and when their divisions and manifest failures of governance have generated a vacuum of authority.”[12] In his later work, Huntington himself leans more towards the domestic politics framework, stating that militaries become politicized when civilian governments fail to address major policy issues facing the state.[13]

Despite the differences in the two sets of theories — that is, the threat framework and the domestic politics framework — a key prediction is common in both camps: military involvement in internal security tasks leads to praetorianism, resulting in the military’s politicization.[14] In other words, in order to establish civilian control of the military, it is imperative that the military be absent from the internal security and political sphere of the state.[15]

Using the aforementioned frameworks, this paper will examine the role of the Egyptian military in domestic politics. It will demonstrate that the specific, external threats faced by Egypt have forced the state to create a highly specialized, highly professional military. In a bid to secure their rule, successive authoritarian regimes in Egypt have provided the military with regulated and unregulated patronage, resulting in a military with large economic interests and a culture of corporate bureaucracy. These factors, combined with weak civilian institutions and political parties, created a power vacuum that the Egyptian military continues to fill. When compared with the Turkish model, it is apparent that the Egyptian military lacks certain essential elements that will allow an evolution similar to the Turkish military in the near future. A comparison with the Pakistani military yields a more concrete comparison. Civil-military relations goals for Egypt similar to Pakistan are attainable in the near future. While the Turkish model is superior in that the military commanders have exhibited deference for civilian control, it is difficult to emulate due to reasons explained below. Nonetheless, it is a goal to which the Egyptians should aspire. More realistically, it is probable that the Egyptian military will follow a path of gradual and incremental civilian control, similar to the situation currently taking place in Pakistan.

Civil-Military Relations in Egypt: A Brief Historic Overview

Egypt’s military gained its political power in 1952 when Nasser led the Free Officers Movement to overthrow the corrupt Western-controlled monarchy. Nasser’s rule of Egypt from 1956 to 1970 was marked by the entrenchment of the military’s economic and political position of privilege in Egyptian society. This chaotic era was punctuated by Egypt’s twenty-year arms agreement with the Soviet Union, and its disastrous wars in 1956 and 1967.[16] Egypt’s defeat in the Six Day War offered Nasser the opportunity to purge the military’s officer corps, including Armed Forces Chief of Staff Abdel Hakim Amer. This marked a turning point in civil-military relations in reducing the military’s political influence. After Nasser’s death in 1971, Vice President Anwar Sadat assumed power, reversing many of Nasser’s core policies. His major policy changes included opening up Egypt’s economy, introducing a multiparty parliament and, perhaps most importantly, his peace treaty with Israel in 1978. Islamists assassinated Sadat in 1981 and Vice President Hosni Mubarak assumed power.[17] Mubarak focused on fighting Islamists’ infiltration of the military and their influence on society, resulting in a brutal crackdown during the 1990’s. Mubarak, too, attempted to depoliticize the military by firing his popular Defense Minister, Abu Ghazala, and providing the military numerous economic privileges in exchange for political control.[18]

According to Silverman, when the 2011 revolution brought the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to power, there was an underhanded attempt by the military to preserve the economic privileges provided to it by the overthrown ruler.[19] Such attempts at preservation included opposing political and economic reforms, preventing the revision of select constitutional clauses, repressing continued protests against military rule, arresting thousands of protesters using extrajudicial courts, and barring numerous candidates from the presidential election on technicalities (through the Constitutional Courts).[20] A set of SCAF-backed supra-constitutional principles declared in November 2011 aimed to solidify the military’s power and autonomy, suggesting the military act as a guarantor for the civil state, and retain veto power over the civilian government in all military affairs. Under public pressure, the proposal was dropped.[21]

Backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Morsi was elected president in 2012, intensifying the power struggle further. The ascension of Egypt’s first ever democratically-elected civilian government placed civil-military relations in uncharted territory. In a sudden and unexpected response to SCAF’s attempts to increase its power and influence, President Morsi removed Field Marshal Tantawi, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and Minister of Defense, and his Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Sami Anan, in addition to other senior military leaders.[22] Dubbed a “civilian counter-coup” by some observers, the move began a series of events that culminated in the ouster of President Morsi on July 3, 2013.[23]

As of December 2013, the issue of President Morsi’s ouster still plagues all aspects of Egyptian society. Pro-Morsi supporters refuse to accept the legitimacy of a military-backed interim government. They continue to stage protests and sit-ins. In an unprecedented move (and in a bid to deal with the lingering protests), Commander in Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces, General Fattah al-Sisi, called on Egyptians to take to the streets in July 2013 “to prove their will and give me, the army and police, a mandate to confront possible violence and terrorism.”[24] After ostensibly receiving such a mandate from obliging mass protestors, the military began operations to clear pro-Morsi sit-ins. The result has been violent, with both sides allegedly using deadly force on their opponents.[25] The current volatile political climate in Egypt makes an analysis of civil-military relations extremely challenging, yet urgent.

The next section of this paper aims to compare the role of the Egyptian military with its Turkish counterpart in an effort to distill lessons learned and guidance on how to restore balance to a society whose fate remains closely tied to the decisions of its military leaders.

Turkey: A Changing Civil-Military Balance

The events unfolding in Egypt after Morsi’s ouster put relations between Egypt and Turkey on a rocky path, as evidenced by a reciprocal decision to recall ambassadors of the two governments.[26] Despite recent events, a 2012 opinion poll found that 69 percent of respondents held a positive opinion of Turkey, making it the most popular among 18 Middle Eastern countries included in the poll.[27] Turkey was followed closely by Egypt with 65 percent.[28] It is interesting to note that although Turkey was seen as the region’s most powerful player, this perception arose from a political perspective, not from a military or economic one.[29] Despite Turkey’s ongoing opposition to the Assad regime in Syria, 70 percent of respondents considered the ruling Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (AK) Party to be a friend to their country, with respondents from Egypt, Libya and Palestine being the most supportive of Turkey’s regional role.[30] However, positive responses to the question of whether Turkey is a model for the Middle East fell from 61 percent in 2011 to 53 percent in 2012.[31] Thus, while Turkey remains a well-regarded political power in the region, it is not as popular as it once was. Its recent economic success, democratic regime, and secular political system continue to be viewed as a model in the Arab World.[32]

However, it is unclear whether Egypt can model Turkey’s successes in this respect. Notwithstanding the recent unrest in Turkey, many observers propose it as a model for democratization in the Middle East due to its unique political evolution. However, a thorough review of democratization in Turkey reveals that it not only has significant hurdles to overcome before it can claim to be a true democracy, but also many of the major milestones it has achieved are difficult to replicate elsewhere in the region. According to Atasoy, rather than a completed model for other countries to emulate, Turkey is an illustrative case of ongoing democratization from which other Muslim majority countries can draw lessons.[33] Two essential features make Turkey unique in the Islamic world: it is the only majority Muslim country that is partly European and currently negotiating EU membership, and it remains the only majority Muslim country never to have lost its independence.[34] These factors make a complete replication of the Turkish model difficult.

Since 2002, when the country’s first Islamic party was elected to government, the balance of power within Turkey has gradually shifted in favor of civilian authorities.[35] Although experts agree that civilian control of the military is increasing, opinions diverge with respect to whether or not the military is a willing partner in this change.[36] Scholars such as Herper believe that the Turkish military has matured to the extent that it actively seeks civilian oversight, whereas Cizre believes that the military remains an unwilling and reluctant partner in the dynamic.[37]

Historically, the military has been the institution that protects and upholds the principles laid down by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the father of the nation. From 1960 onwards, the military intervened in politics on four occasions when it felt a need to confront internal and external threats to the country in order to preserve the secular character of the state.[38] A perceived absence of professionalism on the part of politicians concerned the Turkish military. Between 1960 and 2002, it was the military that attempted to re-structure political life. Following military interventions, new constitutions were adopted or the existing ones amended, whereas the provisions that “the military is responsible for defending and guarding both the Turkish fatherland and the Turkish Republic as defined by the Constitution” and that the “Turkish Armed Forces shall defend the country against the internal as well as the external threats if necessary by force” remained unchanged.[39] However, this dynamic is now changing due to a number of domestic events and international factors.

First, as mentioned above, in 2002, the Islamic-rooted AK Party won the election with a clear majority, signaling the end of an era of political fragmentation. Upon its assumption of office, the party took the position that the military was subservient to the government, not the other way around.[40] With its new vision for Turkey and comprehensive foreign policy initiatives, the AK Party redefined Turkey’s new positions on issues that the military had previously dictated or shaped, thus shifting the power balance towards civilian control.[41]

Second, in September 2010 Turkey held a historic referendum on government-sponsored constitutional amendments that were designed to reshape the structure of higher administrative courts and reduce the role of the military in Turkish politics. The referendums passed, signaling the popularity of Turkey’s ongoing modernization and reform in line with accession to the European Union.[42] As the possibility of the military bureaucracy’s intervention in the political system lessens because of the EU reform process and greater openness in society, Turkey’s judiciary has begun to assume the role of “system guardianship” and has started to make overtly political decisions, thus moving the military towards civilian control.[43]

These domestic developments are intertwined with international factors that forced Turkey to enact legal reforms that removed the bureaucratic mechanisms which previously allowed the military to exert influence over both domestic and foreign policy–making in Turkey. In December 1999, after the Helinski Summit confirmed Turkey’s candidacy in the EU, Ankara was forced to harmonize its laws according to EU regulations, as Brussels demanded that Turkey implement “civilian control over the military.”[44]

The post-Cold War world order is another major international factor changing the role of the military in Turkish politics. Following the Cold War, the Turkish military fell out of step with society and continued to see the world in bi-polar terms. Desch criticizes the military for failing to recognize Turkey’s transition from a “security-oriented democracy” to a “freedom-oriented democracy.”[45] In addition, despite the AK Party’s victories in elections in 2002 and 2007, the Turkish military continued to view the AK Party’s growing electoral strength as a threat to the country, partly alienating the AK Party’s huge constituency and damaging the military’s influence in the domestic political sphere.

Is Turkey a Viable Model for Egypt?

After the 2011 Egyptian revolution, there were calls for the Egyptian military to emulate the “Turkish model.” Indeed, the two countries share certain similarities. Both have large and influential armies whose leaders consider themselves the guardians of the established political system. Both Turkey and Egypt have large populations, powerful Islamist groups, and increasingly pious middle classes. But is the Turkish model a plausible option for Egypt? As discussed below, the Turkish model is the result of a number of unique historical trends that make it difficult to replicate elsewhere.

According to some observers such as Hashim[46] and Karon[47] there are actually two Turkish models, neither of which would be easy for Egypt to emulate. The model most scholars refer to involves military intervention in the political process to overthrow governments that have deviated from the principles of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, thus creating democracy by keeping the excesses of civilian politicians, whether Rightists, Leftists, or Islamists, in check.[48] The second Turkish model – one that is discussed in more detail in Arab circles than in the West —refers to a democratic Islamic government that establishes control over the powerful military establishment, making it a democratic nation that is less and less threatened by the corporate or nationalist interests of the military.[49]

Steven Cook and Hashim contend that the first model, based on a “guardians of secularism” role for the military, is “hyped up”; in fact, Turkey has achieved democracy not because of its military, but in spite of it.[50] Turkey only began a transition to democracy between 2002 and 2005, when it undertook thorough reforms in order to meet Europe’s requirements (known as the Copenhagen criteria) to begin EU membership negotiations. The military opposed these changes, but because the AK Party led a broad based coalition which aspired to the political and economic benefits of EU membership, the military was constrained from acting to undermine the reforms.[51] Yet, the differences between Turkey and Egypt are vast. There is no critical external actor to play the role of the EU and constrain the Egyptian military from threatening democratization. Egyptian civil society is beset by religious forces that are not particularly tolerant, democratic, or globalized. Finally, although they have similar-sized populations, Turkey’s economy is three times larger than Egypt’s.[52]

The second model, based on democratic Islamic government effectively controlling the military establishment, is a more hopeful goal for Egypt. However, the security sector reforms that enabled such an outcome, particularly regarding national security and budgetary issues, are tied closely to Turkey’s bid for EU membership. In the absence of such an external factor, it will be some time before Egypt can approximate similar policy reforms.

Pakistan: An Alternative Model

Since Egypt’s 2011 revolution, observers such as Spencer Ackerman, Michelle Dunne, and Michael Kugelman have made comparisons between the Egyptian and Pakistani militaries. Like Egypt and Turkey, Pakistan’s army views itself as the guardian of national identity and it views its globalized, nuclear-armed neighbor as an existential threat. Yet this severe, sustained external threat from India has not generated civilian control of the army, in keeping with the analysis of Huntington and other external threat theorists. The Pakistani military has a history of praetorianism similar to Egypt, leading observers to cite the “Pakistani model” in making predictions for Egypt’s civil-military relations.[53]

Pakistan’s political history is characterized by frequent breakdowns of constitutional and political arrangements, atrophy of political institutions and processes, ascendancy of the bureaucracy and the military, and constitutional and political engineering by military rulers to protect their powerful interests.[54] The reasons for these developments can be traced back to Pakistan’s inception when it faced serious internal administrative and management problems caused by the partition of British India. On the external front, Pakistan’s troubled relations with India arose out of the partition process and the 1947-48 First Kashmir War. Furthermore, Afghanistan’s irredentist claims on Pakistani territory also perturbed Pakistani rulers. Consequently, Pakistani rulers were haunted by the fear of the collapse of the Pakistani state due to external and internal security pressures.[55] Because of these external threats, Pakistan priorities favored the needs of territorial security and focused on building a strong and well-equipped military. All this worked to the disadvantage of civilian institutions and processes.

Pakistan’s attempts to restore a democratic government are showing promise, however. In May 2013, a civilian government completed a full term before transitioning to another civilian government — a first in Pakistan’s history. Although the elections were marred by violence, they nonetheless mark a triumph for democracy. Still, the military establishment in Pakistan continues to play a major economic as well as political role. Even with a praetorian military economically invested in the status quo, civilian control may be established by following gradual, incremental steps. This presents a viable and attainable model for Egypt to follow.

Parallels between Egyptian and Pakistani Militaries

The Egyptian and Pakistani militaries share similarities such as being their respective countries’ most powerful institutions, wielding control over foreign and defense policy, and enjoying a generous share of the national budget. The Pakistani and Egyptian militaries also preside over vast economic empires that operate with little transparency, and are unchecked by civilian leadership.[56]According to Ayesha Siddiqa in her 2007 book Military Inc., the assets and business interests of Pakistan’s military range from breakfast cereal to construction firms.[57] Based on estimates from 2007, the military’s business capital equates to more than 6 percent of GDP.[58] In both Egypt and Pakistan, the affluence of the armed forces stands in sharp contrast to the impoverished general population.

There are also major differences between the roles of the Egyptian and Pakistani military that relate to real or perceived threats to sovereignty.[59] Pakistan has an insecure border. At one time or another, border disputes have marked its relationships with both Afghanistan and India. Thus, the military’s first and foremost priority continues to be defending the country from external threats, with internal stability given less priority. Egypt has not faced substantial threats to its sovereignty after the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty was signed in 1979 following Camp David Accords. Egypt also benefits from a more ethnically and culturally homogenous population and a more secure border than does Pakistan.

Despite concerns about Islamist influences,[60] Egypt’s military remains a staunchly secular institution. By contrast, Pakistan’s armed forces are conservative and religious in orientation.[61] For several decades, elements of the Pakistani security establishment, particularly Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) have nurtured ties with hardline Islamist organizations,[62] including the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist group that claimed responsibility for the brutal attacks in Mumbai, India in 2003.[63] Because of demographic factors, this orientation is likely to remain entrenched for the foreseeable future.

Deriving Lessons from Pakistan

Even with the differences between the two militaries, Pakistan offers the Egyptian army a template for its bid to maintain influence in a newly democratic environment.[64] In a Pew poll released in May 2013, nearly 90 percent of Pakistanis said their country was on the wrong track—yet nearly 80 percent said the military exerts a positive influence on the nation.[65] The Pakistani military is the only one in the Muslim world that has retained its privileged position in an increasingly democratic political system.[66]

Despite the Pakistani military’s popularity, there is little public appetite for another coup,[67] and the army appears to be keenly aware of this sentiment. The institution’s reputation has been damaged in recent years, primarily by revelations of Osama bin Laden’s residence near a military academy in Abbottabad. The army is hesitant to do anything that could further harm its positive, but increasingly fragile, image.[68] It is not just the military’s image that has changed, however. Pakistan’s political climate has transformed as well.[69]

Democracy in Pakistan has strengthened to the point where coups are no longer easy to justify, much less pull off. In addition to the historic transition from one democratically elected government to another, Pakistan has passed recent constitutional amendments that limit the power of the presidency[70] and transfer ample resources and responsibilities[71] from the central government (the military’s traditional power source) to provincial and local authorities. This decentralizing action bodes well for democracy in Pakistan, as do the growing strength of the judiciary and independent media.[72]

In comparison, Egypt is still in the early stages of democracy. Unlike Pakistan — where powerful private media and activist courts hold sway — there are few checks on an interventionist military in Egypt.[73] The military views the civilian leadership with suspicion and is not yet convinced by the competence of civilian institutions. In many ways, Egypt today is similar to Pakistan in the 1990s, when the military used what it termed constitutional and legal means to control the system and the Pakistan People’s Party. In 1990, 1993, and 1996, Pakistan’s generals used the judiciary, the presidency and opposition parties to dismiss sitting governments and dissolve the parliament to prevent civilian governments from gaining ground.[74]

If this trend holds true for Egypt, the coming years could see the Egyptian parliament prematurely dismissed more than once. Already, the Egyptian army, faced by a situation in which the civilian institutions were unable to govern, and unrest reached a level where the Muslim Brotherhood-led government could not control the situation, intervened in domestic politics in a manner similar to General Pervez Musharraf in 2007.[75] In such a climate, it becomes necessary to consider what steps may be taken to ensure civilian oversight of the military in Egypt.

As Atasoy suggests, the following recommendations aimed at the society at large can be immensely beneficial in creating more balanced civil-military relations.[76] In the present case, these recommendations have been tailored to the particular circumstances prevalent in Egypt today.


  1. The constitution must emphasize universal principles of human rights and freedoms, rather than rigid ideological doctrines and the glorification of state or religion. Under the 2013 draft of the constitution, international human rights instruments ratified by Egypt are deemed domestic law (article 93).[77] Article 92 further stipulates that laws defining rights and freedoms cannot limit them, and removes previous limitations on rights to be practiced in line with fundamental values of society.[78] These are constitutional steps in the right direction, but much will depend on how they are implemented.


  1. The training and legal framework of the armed forces must emphasize modern standards of civilian oversight. Personality cults lead to authoritarianism. The military as well as political bodies must emphasize institutions and ideals over personalities. Under the 2013 draft of the Egyptian constitution, however the military has gained even greater autonomy than under the 2012 draft. It is no longer viewed as a branch of the executive, but rather an independent state pillar.[79] Additionally, whereas previously the Minister of Defense, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, was appointed by the President under Article 147, under Article 234 of the new draft, the appointment must be approved by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, thus curtailing civilian oversight.[80]


  1. Full freedom of the press is necessary, but it must be accompanied by the institutionalization of professional and ethical standards in the media to prevent the manipulation of society. This institutionalization of standards is particularly urgent, since during the 2013 military coup and ensuing unrest, the media became a front line in the conflict. Persons associated with targeted media outlets were frequently attacked and even barred from government press conferences.[81]


  1. The judiciary must never be used as an ideological or political instrument; this inevitably results in a loss of partiality and credibility of the courts. Effective measures must be taken to prevent such an outcome, such as a thorough constitutional design.


  1. Military and civilian bureaucratic institutions must be purged of anti-democratic elements. Accountability and transparency must be paramount.


  1. National education must emphasize promoting empathy and open-mindedness, rather than ideological indoctrination.


Additionally, the following recommendations focus specifically on the establishment of civilian oversight of the military, as well elucidated by El Fegeiry.[82]


  1. Appropriate civilian oversight over the military’s budget must be established. This change must be brought about gradually and incrementally to avoid political confrontations. This process seems to be currently underway in Egypt. Whereas the 1971 constitution made no mention of the military budget, article 197 of the now defunct 2012 constitution created the National Defense Council responsible for the military budget.[83] The 2013 draft, in article 203 expands upon the civilian members of government to be included in the Council. The Council is to be presided over by the President, and must include the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Minister of Defense. However, the Council is only responsible “for discussing the armed forces’ budget, which is incorporated as a single figure in the state budget.”[84] Thus, whether this new provision leads to actual civilian oversight remains to be seen.


  1. The power to declare war must lie in the hands of elected civilian representatives. Under the Egyptian constitution of 1971, the president could declare war with the approval of the parliament. However, current military leaders have opposed handing such powers entirely to civilians. Any future constitutions must establish a workable compromise. Under article 152 of the 2013 draft of the constitution, the President can only declare war after consultation with the National Defense Council, and the approval of the House of Representatives with a two-thirds majority.[85] Given that the National Defense Council includes the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces and the Commanders of Navy, Air Forces, and Air Defense, as well as the head of Military Intelligence, it appears that the constitutional provisions in relation to the declaration of war are indeed evolving towards a compromise between civilian and military leaders.


  1. Elected senior representatives holding executive positions must be responsible for the appointment and dismissal of senior military leaders. This must take place in a manner that is transparent. As noted above, the 2013 draft constitution takes a step back on the appointment of the Minister of Defense, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. Under the 1971 constitution, the Minister of Defense was appointed by the President, under the 2013 draft, such an appointment must be approved by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has the potential to make the civilian oversight involved merely symbolic.[86]


  1. Only in specifically defined cases of emergency should the executive be permitted to order the armed forces to assist in preserving domestic security. The emergency situations in which the president can order the army to deploy domestically must be defined clearly and narrowly in the constitution, and the role of the military in domestic security must be similarly defined to prevent abuse.


Democratizing civil-military relations and institutionalizing civilian oversight of military affairs must be a top priority during Egypt’s ongoing transition to democracy. This will be a hard task: having been entrenched in the political regime for decades, the far-reaching powers and privileges of the military establishment are difficult to dislodge. Any sustainable transition would have to be based on a broad national consensus, inclusive of all political actors, even those that are out of favor with the military establishment. Ensuring a transparent and inclusive constitutional drafting process must stand at the heart of the transition. Ultimately, the success or failure of any transition process will depend on the ability of all political factions in Egypt, both Islamists and liberals, to reunite on the revolutionary front. n


Ms. Mahmood is an MALD candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy where she focuses on International Security Studies, Southwest Asia, and the Islamic Civilization. She is a licensed attorney at the Islamabad High Court, Pakistan and has been called to the Bar of England and Wales.

[1] Samuel Huntington and Francis Fukuyama, Political Order in Changing Societies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968), 192-237.

[2] Paul Staniland, “Explaining Civil-Military Relations in Complex Political Environments: India and Pakistan in Comparative Perspective,” Security Studies 17 No. 2 (2008): 325.

[3] Samuel P. Huntington, The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, Harvard University Press, 1957), 8-18.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Michael C. Desch, Civilian Control of the Military: The Changing Security Environment (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2001), 6.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Desch, Civilian Control of the Military, 14.

[8] Samuel Edward Finer, The Man on Horseback: The Role of the Military in Politics (Boulder: Westview Press, 1988) 20-26.

[9] Ibid., 20-21

[10] Ibid., 22

[11] This table is a modified version of one in Desch, Civilian Control of the Military, 14.

[12] Larry Diamond and Marc Plattner, “Introduction,” in Civil Military Relations and Democracy, ed. Larry Diamond and Marc Plattner (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), xxix.

[13] Huntington and Fukuyama, Political Order in Changing Societies, 192-237.

[14] Staniland, Explaining Civil-Military Relations, 329.

[15] Ibid., 329

[16] David Silverman, “The Arab Military in the Arab Spring: Agent of Continuity Or Change? A Comparative Analysis of Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, and Libya,” (paper presented at the annual meeting for the American Political Science Association, New Orleans, Louisiana, August 30-September 2, 2012), 24.

[17] Ibid., 24, and Ahmed S. Hashim, “The Egyptian Military, Part One: From the Ottomans through Sadat,” Middle East Policy 18 No. 3 (2011), 63-78.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid., 25.

[20] Ibid., 25.

[21] Moataz El Fegiery, “Crunch Time for Egypt’s Civil Military Relations,” FRIDE Policy Brief 134 (2012): 2.

[22] Ibid., 3.

[23] Victor Kotsev, “A Brotherhood Coup in Egypt,” Asia Times Online, 15 August 2012, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NH15Ak04.html.

[24] “Egyptian Army Chief Calls for Street Protests,” BBC News, 24 July 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23434809.

[25] David Kirkpatrick and Alan Cowell, “New Bloodshed in Egypt as Islamists Defy Threat of Force,” The New York Times, 16 August 2013.

[26] “Turkey Recalls Ambassador in Cairo for Consultation, Egypt Reciprocates,” Hurriyet Daily News, 15 August 2013, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-recalls-ambassador-in-cairo-for-consultations-egypt-reciprocates.aspx?PageID=238&NID=52642&NewsCatID=338.

[27] Mensur Akgün and Sabiha Senyücel Gündoğar, The Perception of Turkey in the Middle East 2012, trans. Jonathan Levack (Istanbul: Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, 2013), 6.

[28] Ibid., 5.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid., 25.

[33] Seymen Atasoy, “The Turkish Example: A Model for Change in the Middle East?” Middle East Policy 18 No. 3 (2011): 86-100.

[34] Ibid., 86.

[35] Karen Kaya, Changing Civil Military Relations in Turkey (Leavenworth: Foreign Military Studies Office, 2011), 2.

[36] Kaya, Changing Civil-Military Relations, 2; Metin Heper, “Civil-Military Relations in Turkey: Toward a Liberal Model?” Turkish Studies 12 No. 2 (2011): 241-252; Umit Cizre, “Disentangling the Threads of Civil-Military Relations in Turkey: Promises and Perils,” Mediterranean Quarterly 22 No. 2 (2011): 57-75.

[37] Heper, “Civil-Military Relations in Turkey,” 241-252; Cizre, “Disentangling the Threads of Civil-Military Relations,” 57-75.

[38] Heper, “Civil-Military Relations in Turkey,” 241-252.

[39] See Article 35 of Internal Service Act of the Turkish Armed Forces; see Article 85 of Internal Service Regulations of the Turkish Armed Forces; and see Cizre, “Disentangling the Threads of Civil-Military Relations,” 57-75.

[40] Heper, “Civil-Military Relations in Turkey,” 4.

[41] Ibid., 4.

[42] Cizre, “Disentangling the Threads of Civil-Military Relations in Turkey,” 57-75.

[43] Ibid., 58.

[44] Kaya, “Changing Civil-Military Relations,” 7.

[45] Ibid., 7.

[46] Ahmed Hashim, “The Egyptian Military, Part Two: From Mubarak Onward,” Middle East Policy 18 No. 4 (2011), 106-128.

[47] Tony Karon, “Will Egypt’s Military Hijack its Revolution?” Time, 19 July 2011, http://world.time.com/2011/07/19/will-egypts-military-hijack-its-revolution/.

[48] Hashim, “The Egyptian Military, Part Two,” 120.

[49] Ibid., 121

[50] Steven Cook, comment on Steven A. Cook, “The Turkish Model for Egypt? Beware of False Analogies,” From the Potomac to the Euphrates, http://blogs.cfr.org/cook/2011/02/04/the-turkish-model-for-egypt-beware-of-false-analogies/.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Hashim, “The Egyptian Military, Part Two,” 121.

[53] Ian Bremmer, “Is becoming Pakistan the best Egypt can hope for? – Ian Bremmer” Reuters, 11 July 2013, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/11/us-bremmer-egypt-idUSBRE96A0XU20130711.

[54] Hasan-Askari Rizvi, “Democracy in Pakistan,” Survival 40 No. 2 (1998): 96-113.

[55] Ibid., 96-113.

[56] The impressive breadth of the Egyptian military’s industrial complex is easily matched by that of the Pakistani military. Assets of both militaries include manufacturing capabilities for flat-screen TVs, automobiles, and sports services, among other things. See Sherine Tadros, “Egypt military’s economic empire,” Al-Jazeera, 15 February 2012, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/02/2012215195912519142.html.

[57] Ayesha Siddiqa, Military Inc.: The Politics of Military Economy in Pakistan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 112-139.

[58] Ibid.

[59] Ayesha Chugh, comment on Chugh, “The Egyptian and Pakistani Military: Parallels and Differences,” Muftah, 10 February 2012, http://muftah.org/the-egyptian-and-pakistani-military-parallels-and-differences/.

[60] Jeffrey Fleishman, “Egypt evolving along with Morsi’s relationship with military,” Los Angeles Times, 19 August 2012, http://articles.latimes.com/2012/aug/19/world/la-fg-egypt-military-20120819.

[61] Jason Roach, “The Growth of Islamism in the Pakistan Army,” Small Wars Journal 30 January 2013, http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/the-growth-of-islamism-in-the-pakistan-army.

[62] Zachary Laub, “Pakistan’s New Generation of Terrorists,” Council on Foreign Relations, 18 November 2013, http://www.cfr.org/pakistan/pakistans-new-generation-terrorists/p15422.

[63] Shishir Gupta and Rajesh Ahuja, “LeT Claims Attack under Veiled Names,” Hindustan Times, 26 September 2013, http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/newdelhi/let-claims-attack-under-veiled-names/article1-1127659.aspx

[64] Chugh, “The Egyptian and Pakistani Military,” February 10, 2012.

[65] “On Eve of Elections, a Dismal Public Mood in Pakistan,” Pew Research Global Attitudes Project, 7 May 2013, http://www.pewglobal.org/2013/05/07/on-eve-of-elections-a-dismal-public-mood-in-pakistan/.

[66] “Egypt’s Military and the Pakistani Model,” Stratfor, accessed 17 August 2013.

[67] Reza Sayah, “Five reasons why the army won’t take over Pakistan,” CNN, 18 January 2012, http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/16/world/asia/pakistan-army-sayah.

[68] “Egypt’s Military and the Pakistani Model,” Stratfor.

[69] Ibid.

[70] “Pakistan’s President Signs Constitutional Amendment, Relinquishes Some Powers,” Voice of America, 18 April 2010, http://www.voanews.com/content/pakistan-president-signs-amendment-curbing-powers-91510549/116138.html.

[71] Colin Cookman, “The 18th Amendment and Pakistan’s Political Transitions,” Center for American Progress, 19 April 2010, http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/security/news/2010/04/19/7587/the-18th-amendment-and-pakistans-political-transitions/.

[72] “Egypt’s Military and the Pakistani Model,” Stratfor.

[73] Ibid.

[74] Bremmer, “Is Becoming Pakistan the Best Egypt can Hope for?”

[75] Ibid.

[76] Atasoy, “The Turkish Example,” 86-100.

[77] Nathan Brown and Michele Dunne, “Egypt’s Draft Constitution Rewards the Military and the Judiciary,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 4 December 2013, http://carnegieendowment.org/2013/12/04/egypt-s-draft-constitution-rewards-military-and-judiciary/gvc8.

[78] Ibid.

[79] Brown and Dunne, “Egypt’s Draft Constitution.”

[80] “Comparing Egypt’s Constitutions,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 4 December 2013, http://carnegieendowment.org/files/Comparing-Egypt-s-Constitutions.pdf.

[81] “Al Jazeera Banned from Government Press Conference, Again,” The Algemeiner, 22 July 2013, http://www.algemeiner.com/2013/07/22/al-jazeera-banned-from-egypt-government-press-conference-again/.

[82] El Fegiery, “Crunch Time for Egypt’s Civil Military Relations,” 3-5.

[83] “Comparing Egypt’s Constitutions,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 3-4.

[84] Ibid., 4.

[85] Ibid., 5.

[86] Ibid., 3.

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