“As the Middle East is enjoying an unparalleled geographic location, it is also ranked as one of the most troubled regions in the world…This comes as the concept of a strong, cohesive nation-state is now jeopardized by a multitude of destabilizing factors, the essence of which lies in division and fragmentation in its various forms, either sectarian, political or ethnic. This confirms that upholding the all-encompassing concept of the nation-state is indispensable;” said Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, in his speech to the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, last week.
Modern-day Egypt is one of a few countries, in the Middle East region and worldwide, that can be labelled as a perfect example of an intact nation-state. That is due to the fact that citizens and ruling state authorities are always careful to remain united under the Egyptian flag, and the unique concept that this flag represents, regardless of their demographic, cultural, or religious differences.
The cement that kept the Egyptian nation-state intact throughout all the destructive events that took place along Egypt’s modern history, is the national military that dearly embraces an ideology that puts Egypt first.
The recent death of Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who was the Minister of Defense throughout the years of Egypt’s Arab Spring revolution and its super chaotic aftermath, revived the memory of this crucial fact. Tantawi served as Minister of Defense for eighteen years, under the Mubarak regime. Despite that, when the Egyptian revolution of 2011 erupted, he did not hesitate to direct the military to align with the will of the Egyptian people.
The role Tantawi played in preserving the cohesion of the Egyptian state throughout the aftermath of the 2011 revolution is not less heroic than the role played by his devout mentee, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, when he was the Minister of Defense during the revolution against the Muslim Brotherhood regime, in 2013.
Each of the two leaders manifested into action the ideology of the Egyptian military which is the actual reason behind the strength of the Egyptian nation-state.
The only two Arab Spring countries that survived the tragedies of the post-revolution transitional period are Tunisia and Egypt. Other Arab Spring countries have fallen into the dark hole of civil wars and breeding terrorist organizations, up till today.
However, despite initial conflicts overpowering the political Islamist factions of the Muslim Brotherhood, each of the two North African countries successfully survived restoring public order, preserving the unity of the national state, and establishing a working system of governance.
The military’s cooperation with nonviolent movements in Tunisia and Egypt, during the 2011 revolutions, played an essential role in guaranteeing their success in removing dictator regimes.
The Egyptian revolution, in particular, suggests that the military, as one of the main pillars of support to the ruling regime, could determine not only the success or failure of a social uprising against a dictator regime but also the flow and direction of political progressions following the success of the revolution in removing a political regime.
The relationship that was developed between the Egyptian military and liberal revolutionists throughout the eighteen days of protests in Tahrir Square, in 2011, was a determining factor in accelerating and smoothing the process of removing the authoritarian regime.
I still remember two inspiring moments that emphasize the importance of the bond between the three main components of the Egyptian nation-state; the citizens, the military, and the governing political leadership. One of them is the slogan that was enchanted in Tahrir Square on January 28th, 2011: “people and the army are one hand.”
The second is when President El-Sisi while making a speech to the National Conference of Youth, in 2016, paused for a moment pulled his fingers tight to stress a solid fist, and said: “as long as we are united like this one hand, nothing can beat us.”
Indeed! Remaining as one hand is the essence of keeping the Egyptian nation-state intact and strong in face of all challenges.