On the Radio
3:44 pm
Fri February 11, 2011

In case you missed it...

Big news in Egypt today as Hosni Mubarak stepped aside and the future of the entire Middle East seemingly changed overnight.

Now the military is in power and people are wondering what is next for the Egyptian people - Will there be years of military rule, or will the country move quickly toward free and fair elections?

Our Marketing Director, Steve Chrypinski mentioned a story he heard earlier in the week that gave him some insights into how the military in Egypt operates.

Why Egypt's Military Cares About Home Appliances – NPR's Planet Money

Reporter/Producer Alex Blumberg spoke with Robert Springborg about the Egyptian military. Springborg is a professor at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and "has written several books about Egypt, he's lived in Egypt, he's consulted with the Egyptian military, and he's an expert on the various businesses it runs."

Springborg says the military in Egypt was huge because of the wars with Israel. After the peace treaty with Israel was signed, they didn't need such a big fighting force.

Egyptian officials were worried about all these young soldiers flooding the job market, so the military went into business – as Blumberg writes, "the military transformed itself from a fighting force to hiring force."

Springborg listed off several businesses he knows the military is involved in:

...car assembly, we're talking of clothing, we're talking of construction of roads, highways, bridges. We're talking of pots and pans, we're talking of kitchen appliances. You know, if you buy an appliance there's a good chance that it's manufactured by the military. If you ... don't have natural gas piped into your house and you have to have a gas bottle, the gas bottle will have been manufactured by the military. Some of the foodstuffs that you will be eating will have been grown and/or processed by the military.

And they're also heavily invested in the tourist industry in Egypt.

So a stable Egypt is good for business and potentially good for the military.

Blumberg says there are few insights into how the military might react if Hosni Mubarak steps down (as he did today) but:

One of the few glimpses we have into the role of the Egyptian military in the economy comes via a 2008 diplomatic cable made public by WikiLeaks…The military would almost certainly go along with a successor, the cable's author writes, if that successor didn't interfere in the military's business arrangements. But, the cable continues, "in a messier succession scenario, it becomes more difficult to predict the military's actions."

You can hear the story here: