What can prevent state failure for Egypt?

An editorial in Al-Masry Al-Youm says: Downtown Cairo is once again a battlefield, and this time, the military is not just a silent facilitator, but an active participant — beating, dragging, shooting, and assaulting civilians. The latest round of brutality has led us to not only question the military’s handling of the transition period, but also the nature of the modern Egyptian state, which is associated with a strong military.

We are at a juncture whereby the revolution has begun to challenge the centrality of the military to the modern state, a legacy dating back to Mohammed Ali’s rule.

When the ruling military junta presented its own version of recent events at a press conference on Monday, the generals, yet again, raised the terrifying prospect of “state failure,” saying that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the army are the sole protectors of the state and everything they do is justified in the name of preventing its dissolution at the hands of those who want to undermine it.

This self-assigned supremacy is rapidly losing even the pretense of legitimacy.

The army’s violence and cruelty has been thoroughly documented by eyewitnesses, in photos and videos. We will not soon forget the image of two soldiers dragging a woman, half naked, by her clothes while a third stands ready to stomp on her chest. When skeptics condemn descriptions of soldiers resorting to violence, they cite how the army was provoked, or how paid infiltrators are allegedly plotting chaos and instability for Egypt. But what can provoke an organized professional army to engage in disorganized, unprofessional street fighting against civilian protesters?

The SCAF claims that “thuggery” and “chaos” have marred the purity of the 25 January revolution. After watching the events of the past five days, we have to agree. The state’s prestige has been irreparably undermined by soldiers urinating on protesters from atop a government building, sexually assaulting women, throwing furniture and flatware from government offices, making lewd sexual gestures, and turning sites of heritage and democracy — such as the Egyptian Museum and the parliament building — into temporary torture centers.

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