Egyptian Army General Wrote Radical Thesis While Attending U.S. Army War College

download (29)By Andrew G. Bostom:

Foreign Policy recently made available online the 2006 “mini-thesis” of Egyptian General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, written during his tenure at the U.S. Army War College, within an essay by Eric Trager [1].

As documented [2] earlier and re-affirmed in an e-mail exchange below with the U.S. Army War College Library’s acting director, I was first unable to obtain a copy of al-Sisi’s thesis from the Inter-Library Loan office due to its “classification” status:

From: Acting Director,  U.S. Army War College Library

Sent: Tuesday, August 06, 2013 12:09 PM
To: Andrew Bostom
Cc: USARMY Carlisle Barracks AWC Mailbox LIBRARYR; USARMY Carlisle Barracks AWC Mailbox LIBRARYC
Subject: RE: Thesis via Inter-Library Loan/pdf?

Sir,

The U.S. Army War College Library is not able to fill your request. The paper’s caveat, “Distribution authorized to U.S. Government agencies only,” means it cannot be released to individuals or libraries outside the federal government.

The War College Library’s initial rejection [2] of my request Friday prompted a Freedom of Information Act demand [3] for its release by Judicial Watch, which was honored [4]Thursday, August 8, 2013 (thesis available here [5]) — albeit some hours after the thesis had inexplicably appeared online at Foreign Policy.

Over the weekend of August 3, the Washington Post released excerpts [6] from a recent interview of al-Sisi by the Post’s senior associate editor, Lally Weymouth. The initial excerpted comments of the general rationalized the military putsch [7] he helped orchestrate to depose Egyptian President and Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Muhammad Morsi:

The dilemma between the former president [Muhammad Morsi] and the people originated from [the Muslim Brotherhood’s] concept of the state, the ideology that they adopted for building a country, which is based on restoring the Islamic religious empire. That’s what made [Mohamed Morsi] not a president for all Egyptians but a president representing his followers and supporters.

Al-Sisi, however, made a series of diametrically opposed statements in his now public 2006 thesis [4]. Yet even al-Sisi’s clear statements extolling [8] Islam’s Caliphate, or “restor[ed] Islamic religious empire,” in the 2006 thesis are mollified, elsewhere, in the same document. These and other clearly conflicting statements in the 2006 thesis render al-Sisi’s true ideological bent “ambiguous,” likely by design. [Note: I want to thank my colleague Stephen Coughlin for his useful input on this salient point.] One notable exception to his equivocating presentation style is al-Sisi’s unambiguous, repeated rejection of secularism.  Al-Sisi’s anti-secular stance, as I will demonstrate, is a longstanding, widely prevalent view in Egypt, mirrored by the popularity of the Caliphate ideal amongst the country’s pre-eminent Islamic religious institutions, major religious leaders, and Muslim masses.

Sunday July, 28, 2013, Foreign Affairs [9] published an alarming analysis of al-Sisi’s ideology and political ambitions. Written by Robert Springborg [10], a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, long recognized for his published expertise on the Egyptian military, the essay [11] highlighted al-Sisi’s previously unrecognized (or dismissed) near-term political aspirations—such as running for Egyptian President (also suggested here [12]here [13])—and of equal significance, his political ideology. During various interviews he granted in the immediate aftermath of Morsi’s overthrow (see here [14]here [15], and here [16]), Springborg had forthrightly summarized al-Sisi’s coreWeltanschauung as being essentially identical to that of Egypt’s sacked President Morsi.

Springborg’s Foreign Affairs [9] essay provided hard evidence of the general’s, and potential Egyptian Presidential candidate’s, Sharia supremacist [17] ideology: al-Sisi’s own written words,  from 2006, recorded in his U.S. Army War College mini-thesis [5], which, at that time, was still not in the public domain.

Although, as Springborg noted [9], innocuously entitled “Democracy in the Middle East,” al-Sisi’s mini-thesis,  he insisted [9], “reads like a tract produced by the Muslim Brotherhood.” Springborg [9] based this assessment on al-Sisi’s alleged harsh criticism of secular governance, coupled to the general’s simultaneous championing of the classical Islamic Caliphate.

Sisi’s thesis goes beyond simply rejecting the idea of a secular state; it embraces a more radical view of the proper place of religion in an Islamic democracy.… The central political mechanisms in such a system, he believes, are al-bi’ah (fealty to a ruler) and shura (a ruler’s consultation with his subjects).

Following the release of extracts [6] from al-Sisi’s Washington Post interview (8/3-4/13), Professor Springborg was interviewed again [18] (Monday, 8/5/13), and he proffered a possible alternative explanation of the pro-Caliphate views the Egyptian general had putatively enunciated in his 2006 thesis. Springborg conceded [18] that al-Sisi may have envisioned his own Caliphate ideology as having its central (or even entire) locus within the context of “Egyptian nationalism”—at least for the near term. This “constrained” Caliphate ideal of al-Sisi, Springborg argued [18]might be distinct from the unconstrained, aggressive transnational Caliphate pursued by the Muslim Brotherhood, in keeping with the traditional, orthodox Islamic doctrine of jihad [19].  Springborg then alluded [18] to the discussion of the Caliphate within Egyptian Islamic society’s religious hierarchy during the first half of the 20th century, but failed [18] to report the decisive doctrinal resolution of the matter, which I will elaborate below.

I agree with the crux of Professor Springborg’s original (7/28/13) analysis [9], despite certain ambiguities in al-Sisi’s presentation, inserted, in my estimation, by design, to allow for “flexible,” contingent interpretations of the general’s words. Springborg’s Foreign Affairs essay did include [9] the following apposite, if rather understated, final commentary on al-Sisi’s romanticized depiction of the Caliphate:

Apologists for Islamic rule sometimes suggest that these concepts are inherently democratic, but in reality they fall far short of the democratic mark.

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