Of all the ironies, the Egyptian people today are experiencing the wisdom of an American military man who served as president more than 50 years ago. That president was Dwight Eisenhower, who, before being elected president, had served as the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in World War II.
In his 1961 Farewell Address, Ike delivered one of the most profound and disturbing warnings to the American people that any president has ever given. He told Americans to beware the growing influence and power of what he termed the “military-industrial complex.” He pointed out that this was the first time in its history that the United States was living under an enormous and ever-growing permanent military establishment. While he believed that the Cold War made such a fundamental structural change necessary, he warned Americans that this new apparatus posed a grave threat to America’s democratic processes.
The Egyptian people are now experiencing what Ike was warning Americans about. Egypt’s vast and powerful national-security state establishment, which consists of its vast military, police, and intelligence forces, has reared its ugly head and is now openly displaying all the hallmarks of supreme dictatorial tyranny. It has ousted from power the democratically elected president of the country. It is shooting and killing people who are protesting and demonstrating against its tyranny. It is declaring opponents to its military dictatorship to be “terrorists.” It is rounding up dissidents, incarcerating them without trial, torturing them, trying them before kangaroo military tribunals, and assassinating them. It says that it is using its brutal dictatorial power to “transition” to a “democratic” system, one that leaves the military establishment in control and one whose candidates are subject to military approval.
In other words, it is doing the precise things that Eisenhower was talking about when he warned Americans of the danger that the military-industrial complex posed to America’s democratic processes. While Ike was referring to the U.S. military-industrial complex and the threat that it posed to America’s democratic processes, the point he was making applied to other countries as well, as we are now seeing with Egypt.
We should bear in mind that Egypt’s military dictatorship wields its omnipotent power over the Egyptian people thanks to the U.S. government, which, over the decades, has provided billions of dollars in cash and armaments to build up and fortify Egypt’s military dictatorship.
For what purpose? A dual purpose: One, to ensure that Egypt’s military dictatorship remains a loyal partner and ally of the U.S. government and, two, to ensure that the dictatorship, in return for maintaining peace with Israel, continues to enjoy its permanent, privileged, dominant, controlling, and exalted position within Egyptian society.
That dictatorial position has been maintained in the same way that all dictatorships maintain their power—through overwhelming military might. That military might has been provided, decade after decade, by the U.S. government. It is that U.S.-provided military might that is now being used to kill, incarcerate, torture, and oppress the Egyptian people.
For the past several decades, an extremely close relationship between the U.S. and Egyptian national-security state apparatuses has grown and developed. And why not, given the fact that they are essentially models of each other?
To be sure, there are differences between the two national-security state apparatuses. The U.S. national-security state maintains a vast overseas empire of bases while Egypt’s does not. Egypt’s national-security state runs hotels and other commercial establishments while America’s does not.
Nonetheless, the fundamentals of the two systems are the same. They both are charged with the mission of protecting “national security.” They both operate in secret. They both spy on and monitor the activities of their respective citizenry. They both wield the power to arrest citizens as suspected terrorists, incarcerate them, torture them, and assassinate them, all without trial by jury or due process of law.
How can it be any wonder that officials in the U.S. national-security state and officials in the Egyptian national-security state have gotten along so well over the decades? They share the same fundamental governmental structure and they share the same vision on matters relating to “national security.” They both believe in “order and stability.” They share the same vision in the “war on terrorism.” That’s why it didn’t surprise anyone when Egypt’s military dictatorship was proudly chosen to serve as one of the U.S. national-security state’s torture-rendition partners as part of the “war on terrorism.”
The last thing that U.S. officials are going to do is terminate federal aid to the Egyptian military dictatorship. This is their decades-old loyal partner, ally, and friend, who, in their eyes, is doing more than going after the “terrorists,” protecting “national security,” and establishing “order and stability” — i.e., all the things that a national-security state apparatus is supposed to do. Don’t forget after all that the commander in chief of the Egyptian armed forces, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, is a graduate of the U.S. Army War College.
In the coming year, every American should resolve to do some serious soul-searching about the structure of the U.S. government and about what the addition of the national-security state apparatus to our governmental structure has done to the American people, to our society, and to our values and principles as Americans. Here are ten questions for Americans to ponder in 2014:
1. Why does the United States have the same type of national-security state system as Egypt?
2. Is a national-security state apparatus consistent with the principles of a free society?
3. Why did Americans live without a national-security state apparatus for more than 150 years of our nation’s history?
4. Are President Eisenhower’s warnings about the military-industrial complex applicable today or were they limited to his time only?
5. Should the U.S. government be supporting and partnering with foreign dictatorships?
6. Should the U.S. government be using U.S. taxpayer money to provide cash and weaponry to foreign dictatorships or, for that matter, to any foreign regime?
7. Is it ever legitimate, especially from a Christian perspective, to partner with or support evil in the name of striving for something good?
8. Should the U.S. government be wielding the same powers that the Egyptian military dictatorship wields — i.e., the powers to spy on the citizenry, round up people, detain them indefinitely, torture them, or assassinate them, all without due process of law and trial by jury?
9. Is it possible that the U.S. national-security state apparatus is the root cause of the crises and chaos that it relies on to justify its continued existence?
10. Why shouldn’t Americans dismantle, not reform, their Cold War national-security state apparatus, including the military-industrial complex, oversea military empire, foreign aid, CIA, and NSA?