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

South Korea Divided on Response to North’s Cyber Attack

In past five years, officials in Seoul have accused Pyongyang of hacking into banks, government websites, causing chaos and inflicting millions of dollars in damages More

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Bentiu

Residents have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy, but planning for the future remains uncertain as fear of attacks looms More

2015 Could Be Watershed for Syria Conflict

Republican control of US Senate in January could lead to more aggressive policy against IS militants in Syria - and against regime of Bashar al-Assad 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.
Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil Wari
X
Adam Bailes
December 22, 2014 3:45 PM
In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.

All About America

AppleAndroid