Debating the merits of a sustained boycott of SCAF products/companies versus a general strike

I have begun pouring over army company information and compiling a page here (http://ow.ly/8WsUQ) and @AalamWassef provided this great overview (http://ow.ly/8ZiNM - download the PDF, great trove of information) documenting military owned companies and assets - all part of the massive interweb of people, companies, products and services that they use to finance their privileges, benefits, etc. (plan on trying to document those soon as well but these include all those properties on Salah Salem with fancy military gates inside - I have been inside a few of them and they are far nicer than you would expect...)
I believe the only thing that will make SCAF change planned course of action is fear of losing those benefits... So the question is what SCAF needs to maintain its privileges/benefits.  I think we can agree that it is generally easier to stay "rich" when you have the support of the West (i.e. despite being horrible dictators across their reign compared Saddam and Qaddafi's life pre/post US-isolation - circa pre1991 and pre1984/post2002, respectively for each...

Therefore, the end extremely worrying situation for #SCAF would be that the US/West flips on them the same way they did when Saddam invaded Kuwait and Qaddafi's Lockerbie, nuclear weapons, etc.!  In that regard, Israel is our Kuwait/Lockerbie/Nuclear Weapons... The most apt analogy is the nuclear weapon one since, just the ability to break out, is considered leverage.  By the same token, Egypt's ability to wage war (at most) or facilitate proliferation of extremism or turn a blind eye to their development in Sinai (at minimum) can be seen as its "nuclear weapon".

At this point, it turns into an exercise in game theory... When looking at the defense establishments of both countries, at the end of the day neither Egypt wants to go to war with Israel nor does the United States want to cut its military aid to Egypt - which both sides know.  The question that the US needs to answer is whether Egypt can go to war with Israel? (Which my complete, unsubstantiated guess would be no).  The next question is how far SCAF is willing to deteriorate the country to hold onto their own benefits?  Historically, leaders have been willing to undergo a spectrum of isolation but we can make some educated guesses.

The fundamental premise is that #SCAF might not mind seeing Egypt turn to shit as long as they retain some benefits (i.e. pretty sure Pakistani army officers live a pleasant life despite state of their country)!

The most extreme example that comes to mind is North Korea's Kim regime which has no problem starving the whole country and living as global pariahs as long as the core power base is satisfied in Pyong Yang.  However, that regime was bred out of isolation and has become accustomed to living locally luxurious but globally isolated.  The leaders of North Korea cannot go shopping in Paris or take family trips to New York - something I suspect our general have become quite accustomed to.  (According to the New York Times American handlers ensure that a day per visit is carved out for Sami Anan, his wife and three kids to go shopping in Tyson’s Corner with an affinity for electronics and jeans.  Additionally, his occasional drinking probably makes him weary of Saudi love)

However, beyond North Korea there are a variety of regimes from Pakistan to Mozambique to Cuba to Iran.  (Which, when looking at this list – and North Korea – there is a strong similarity: the regime has been in power for decades and has yet to show palpable signs of weakness – although take into account, by definition we are filtering out all the failed ones so the above list in and upon itself cannot lead one to conclude that the best path to regime longevity is authoritarianism at all costs.)

Now – in my mind – the only situation that SCAF would be OK with is a Pakistan type situation.  My knowledge on Pakistan is pretty limited but from what I do know there is a deep military/intelligence state (let’s not forget Head of Intelligence Omar Suleiman has been untouched during revolution and, by many unconfirmed accounts, continues to be part of the state security system with privileges and access).

As a result, I think that confrontation with the military is useful in letting them know we are not going away – however, in reality, they have the guns, tanks, planes, weapons, etc. and – with Maspero and Ahram printing press under their control – they likely will have a sizeable portion of public opinion in the short/medium turn.  Therefore, what we need to address is the specific privileges that they are fighting to protect.

While civil disobedience does have its merits, it is also akin to using a sword to perform a surgery – even if it does succeed in cutting off the correct limb; it will likely take a few with it.  The collateral damage will not be felt by most people on Facebook/Twitter but for the 40% living day to day it is not sustainable – they will feel the pain before the military does.  At that point, the HOPE would be that they realize the army is responsible for the dire circumstances and, in one swift swoop the public would realize the countless army transgressions and see the benefits of a truly civilian state!  Unfortunately, not too optimistic that is how it would play out (i.e. far more likely that they would leverage Maspero and Ahram printing press to ensure their message is heard).  In short,  I worry they will turn the civil disobedience to their advantage and use it to consolidate their support - i.e. an us against them discourse (with "them" being protesters who will be presented at destabilizing Egypt).  Moreover, plays very well into anyone who will say "Look at these well off protesters, they can go on strike and not feel the pain whereas #SCAF - and MB for that matter - understand your difficulties and work with us to help you solve them).
Further adding to my belief in the discord between protesters calling for civil disobedience and the general public comes from the polls that have been released over the past year (see an attempt to capture them here (http://ow.ly/8Zlju).  In Q4 2011 a poll released showed that " • 65% of the Egyptian either agrees or strongly agrees that protesters should be prevented from using the Tahrir Square."  In essence civil disobedience is a large, nationwide strike.  In addition, it explicitly demands things protestors and revolutionaries used to have to defend throughout protesting (i.e. protesters in tahrir are stopping traffic, 3agalit el entag, mayroo7a yishoofo li nafsohom shoghlana , etc.).  While one poll may be flawed, these tendencies came out consistenly in other polls as well.  Specifically on the civil disobedience, this stood out ": Only 1% of people participating in "workers strikes" while 25% of people participated in street protests " (25% seems high but its polls, self reported).  Another poll showed that only 34% of Egyptians feel strongly about the need for civil law.  Coupled with the fact that, when asked about reasons for protesting, Egyptians cited low Living Standard/Lack of Jobs" 64% of the time with lack of Democracy/reform coming in at 19% "

The army obviously doesn’t care about the welfare of the people, only raising a concern about that when there is the potential of the sha3b blaming them (i.e. the whole point of a pseudo-civilian government to take the blame – the lovely game of “fire the cabinet, hire the cabinet, repeat). ALthough some report it cares about its image, its fine as long as no threat of revolt.
Unfortunately, I do not see general strike / civil disobedience as fitting into those criteria.  The army will simply say “Look, there are foreign forces trying to destabilize and they are getting revenge because we attacked their American financiers.”  Today, SCAF’s official Facebook accused AUC students of causing discord (http://ow.ly/8Zf4e) and conspiring against the state.  Fortunately, most people who look at Facebook can search the internet for reports on reality – however, when Maspero is pushing this message there is little that can be done to counter it (although much respect for @3askarkazeboon and @mosireen for their persistent efforts to show the people the truth).  Also, let’s not forget Al-Ahram publishing reach – which, again given its importance, controls around 90% of press printing and 85% of distribution...

I think the only thing that will hurt is fear of losing economic privileges – which we cannot expect the US to willingly do.  Given their ownership of 40% of the economy through consumer facing brands, the focus should be on choking those companies!  That way, SCAF cannot say we are trying to destabilize Egypt – bil 3aks – these are companies that do not pay taxes, use Egyptian employees for free, etc. – we are simply supporting the average Egyptian’s claim on his money and due payment for his efforts.

Public campaign: anytime you see someone drinking Safi water explain how the military benefits from this and pays no taxes - they are literally stealing from you every time you purchase a bottle of Safi water!  (In addition to them using your brother's free labor to keep lining their pockets...

Think a sustained boycott of military products would be great - with more impact and less downside on average person than a general strike.  If it were targeted on Army companies and a long-term sustained campaign!  Not only when they cede to civilian power but as a principle - INDIVIDUALS in the military should not be profiting on our backs...

Also, it is a little more palpable for a nation of 85M to request them to use ALTERNATE products (e.g. buy Baraka instead of Safi) but, given day to day salaries of majority of population, staying at home is expensive!


The above is just thinking out loud - I am by no means particularly knowledgeable of civil disobedience or boycotts but I think history is a useful guide and civil rights in the US would be a successful example of the former and South Africa and/or Israeli boycott an example of the latter... 



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