Ready, Aim, Make Kofta

There is news that the Egyptian army has started a private school and will also start managing the Cairo University cafeteria. This is exactly the reverse of what the Bush administration did during its Iraq war when many tasks normally assigned to military personnel were outsourced to civilian contractors. Many attacked that decision as a dangerous precedent. Without defending the Haliburton palm-greasing, it is a far less dangerous precedent than the one now set by the Egyptian Army, which harbors three distinct dangers.

First, there is the danger that the Army will further erode its abilities and focus at a time when the country needs such focus to handle the multiple security threats raised by the collapse of the so-called Arab world. Second, there is the danger that the Army staff will now see themselves as the rulers and managers of the country, rather than its faithful servants, and that this self image will further hinder any progress to effective governance. But the last and most profound danger is the further infantilization of Egypt and the Egyptian society. Nasser once remarked that to let Egyptian practice politics is as irresponsible as letting children play in traffic. But the mission creep of the Army presents additional levels of infantilization; those of basic entrepreneurial skills. To lift the fortunes of the country there needs to be a flourishing spirit of initiative and entrepreneurship. If the civilians can’t be trust to cook, then can they be trusted to do anything else, such as starting a business, or heaven-forbid, pulling a Halliburton?

— Maged Atiya

 


4 Comments on “Ready, Aim, Make Kofta”

  1. Sayed El Bakri says:

    Your argument that the opening of a private international school will erode the Egyptian military’s focus and abilities is questionable given how many other enterprises the military is already engaged in. I had questions about the military’s operation of petrol stations (Wataniyya) at one time but the argument was made the they military operated them in areas where the private sector would not for reasons of distance and security. The private international school in question is in Suez and if there are no other similar schools now operating in that area the same argument could be made in favor of the military opening one. That is, services which are not being provided to citizens will become available.


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