News / Asia

Indonesian Experience Offers Framework for Egypt

Egyptian Army soldiers remove tents of protesters from Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Feb 13, 2011
Egyptian Army soldiers remove tents of protesters from Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Feb 13, 2011
Gary Thomas

Now that the army has taken power in Egypt, the question arises of when - or even if - they will give it up.  But another Islamic country under autocratic rule halfway around the world held its own "people power" uprising 13 years ago and emerged with a functioning democratic state.  Indonesia's experience may hold some lessons for Egypt.

After some three decades in power, an autocratic ruler of a Muslim majority nation suddenly finds himself under pressure after massive street protests.  The military forces the president, himself a former general, to resign, sparking wild jubilation in the streets.  The military still wields considerable power after the ruler steps down.

But the country is not Egypt and the ousted ruler is not Hosni Mubarak.  It is Indonesia, and the toppled president is Suharto.

Former National Security Council director for Asian affairs Karen Brooks says there are significant parallels between Egypt in 2011 and Indonesia in 1998.

"In both you saw longtime U.S. allies, Mubarak and Suharto, each supported by the U.S. for 30 some-odd years - arguably at the expense of the development of democracy and the protection of human rights - come unglued, thanks to initially exogenous factors - in Indonesia the Asian financial crisis, in Egypt the Tunisia example," said Brooks.

The military has held a significant political role in Egypt and Indonesia, although it can be argued it was more direct in Indonesia.  The Indonesian military under Suharto had a so-called "dual function" in which it played both a security and political role.  Karen Brooks, who was a significant contributor to the Clinton administration's Indonesia policy, points out that both militaries were the key players in orchestrating events.

"In both cases the military is a secular, nationalist institution which played and continues to play, particularly in Egypt at this critical juncture, a critical role in determining the trajectory of events. In both Egypt and Indonesia the military played the key role in getting their respective leaders to step down," added Brooks.  

Egypt is currently under the rule of a military-run Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.  Analysts say it is always a concern that the military in any post-revolutionary country will not relinquish power back to civilian control.  But as former CIA senior intelligence analyst Emile Nakhleh points out, they did so in Indonesia, in part because of training they received at U.S. military institutions.

"The Indonesian military, also, under Suharto - the former dictator - had many of those officers who were trained in this country," said Nakhleh.  "They realized that ultimately for Indonesia to move forward, there's got be civilian control.  And so the military was in the background, saying that they wanted to protect Indonesia, to safeguard Indonesia, regardless of the regime."

Will the military do the same in Egypt?  Analysts point out that, like their Indonesian counterparts, many Egyptian officers also received American military training.  Retired U.S. Army Col. Joseph Englehardt, who was U.S. military attache in Cairo, and knows several members of the council, believes the army wants out of the political arena as quickly as possible.

"My strong belief is that these officers took this on as a duty and a responsibility," noted Englehardt.  "They understand it's a bounded set [limited period].  And so the inclination of this group is going to be to do what they have to do and then get back to what they normally do, which is running the military."

Egypt's military council has said it will temporarily administer the country for six months or until parliamentary and presidential elections.

Former CIA officer Emile Nakhleh says the first, and most significant step, for the ruling military to take would be lifting the state of emergency.

"When will they remove the state of emergency?  They have dissolved the parliament, which is a right step forward.  They dissolved the constitution.  They kept the present government as a caretaker government for six months.  But I think the key is dissolving or removing the state of emergency.  To me, this will be a major litmus test," noted Nakhleh.

The state of emergency in Egypt was declared by Mubarak when he assumed office as president after Anwar Sadat's assassination in October 1981.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs