Egypt, which is currently the key story of the Middle East, has answered one question by demonstrating that religiously aligned parties are in a position to control Egypt's civilian government. A second question - will Egypt's constitution carve control of policies important to the United States outside of civilian control - has not yet been answered.
Protesters are currently in Tahrir Square in Egypt advocating for full civilian control of policy and for it to be attained earlier than the June date the military dictatorship claims is its schedule. Of the two, the date of transfer and the fullness of the transfer, the fullness of the transfer is the more important. That question will be determined by who sits on the committee to write the post-Mubarak Egyptian constitution and what the constitution ends up saying.
A struggle is certainly occurring behind the scenes. In public advocates of US policy such as Juan Cole are lying by suggesting that Egypt's Islamic parties are on the side of the military and the US in pursuing the US' objective of preventing civilian control of Egypt's foreign policy.
Elbaradei is reportedly afraid that the Muslim Brotherhood will like having its parliamentary majority so much, and will like having the opportunity to shape the new Egyptian constitution, that they will strike a deal with the military to let them do as they please.In public, left-wing US president Jimmy Carter has come out explicitly favoring an arrangement like that colonial Great Britain presented Egypt in 1922.
Colonial Great Britain in 1922:
The unprecedented movement of Egyptians all across the country that ensued from those early demonstrations quickly overwhelmed British expectations. When at last the combined forces of the occupying army and the Interior Ministry were able to quell months of strikes and protests, the British were compelled to reconsider their position towards Egypt. The eventual outcome of that process was the unilateral decision in March 1922 to grant Egypt a qualified independence. Although the country would be governed thereafter as a constitutional monarchy, the British retained the right to intervene in any matters seen to affect the security of imperial communications, the interests and safety of foreigners on Egyptian soil, the threat of foreign invasion, or the status of Egypt's relationship with the Sudan.Jimmy Carter in 2012:
“ ‘Full civilian control’ is a little excessive, I think,” Mr. Carter said, after describing a meeting he had Tuesday with Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, leader of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, or SCAF. “I don’t think the SCAF is going to turn over full responsibility to the civilian government. There are going to be some privileges of the military that would probably be protected.”This brings up the interesting question of what exactly is in the secret military budget that the pro-US military dictatorship and US officials are so adamant must remain outside of view of the people of Egypt and their representatives.
“If the civilian leadership decided to give the SCAF immunity from prosecution, say, for the death of the people in Tahrir Square over the last few months, I would have no objection to that,” Mr. Carter said. Protecting the military budget from full civilian scrutiny might be another point where civilian political leaders could compromise, he said.
A plausible guess is that the United States has long term commitments of direct cash payments to members of Egypt's military, not only to Tantawi but in different amounts to Egyptian military officials at even relatively low ranks. So that US leverage over Egypt partly takes the form of direct, possibly even monthly, payments to various Egyptian officers directly from US military and intelligence services.
One thing 2011 has proven beyond any question regarding Egypt, is that there are people in the country who want all of Egypt's policies, including foreign policies, to reflect the values, perceptions and sensibilities of the people of Egypt. Those people have important assets in their struggle against the United States and what is effectively a colonial dictatorship that currently rules their country. It is possible but it is not a safe bet to expect the advocates of accountable government for Egypt to lose.