If you’re wondering what is behind the current turmoil, here are some resources to help you make sense of the events unfolding now in Egypt.
Council on Foreign Relations (website).
CFR, a nonpartisan think tank, has posted a number of informative background articles about Egypt’s modern history and political landscape. Check out Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, and Five Things You Need to Know about the Egyptian Armed Forces.
History of the Modern Middle East (iTunes), Richard Bulliet, Columbia University.
To get deep background, you could listen to the whole course, or for a quick overview of how the authoritarian military dictatorships of the Middle East came into being, check out lecture 22, entitled The Neomamluk State. Bulliet compares the current military governments in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria to the medieval Mamluks, the military leaders who ruled Egypt for 250 years. He notes that today’s ruling officers and their families dominate the major industries in their countries, and tend to be a conservative force, suppressing change.
Conversations With History: The Military and Political Development in Egypt Algeria and Turkey (website).
In this 2008 interview, Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations discusses how the armed forces came to dominate Turkey, Algeria, and Egypt. In all three countries the military has been the main modernizing institution in society and plays major roles in the economy. (If you want to bypass the introductory chit chat, skip the first 7 minutes.)