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

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers 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.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, even music are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. Faith Lapidus narrates a report from VOA’s June Soh.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, even music are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. Faith Lapidus narrates a report from VOA’s June Soh.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid