The decision to go to war for any country in modern history depends on several factors. Egypt, as one of the oldest nations in the world, has a long history and experience in vital interests, and the decision to go to war for Egypt is always motivated by protecting these interests, its borders and territories. All the wars it fought were defensive to protect Egypt’s national interests.
Nations go to war when there is imminent threat that can reach their borders, and a rule of thumb is the best defence is a strong offence. Egypt’s current declared war on terrorism in the vital region of Sinai and on the western and coastal borders, is on the offensive to prevent this threat — which has swept through and destroyed many regional countries — from reaching its heartland.
In declaring war on terrorism, the Egyptian army understood that it was not fighting armed mercenaries raising the banner of religion and jihad, but rather several countries and international groups, most notably Qatar, Turkey and the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood organisation which is politically and logistically supported by several countries in the West that sponsor political Islam from behind the scenes.
Recent statements by the army revealed numerous lairs, hideouts, weapons and explosives caches, communication equipment and operation rooms were destroyed, valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. They also reveal that there is a primary sponsor for these deplorable terrorist attacks against the army, police and people of Egypt.
Several countries in the region, most notably Turkey, continue to threaten Egypt’s vital interests in the Mediterranean and Red seas, oil and gas resources, and navigation through the Suez Canal. In response, there are comprehensive military movements on the ground and in training that sent key messages to deter these countries. They were also an opportunity to showcase army capabilities, and that there is decisive political and military resolve to deter and protect national interests and resources by land, sea and air.
These military operations to protect the land are the best pragmatic response to the suspicious “deal of the century” and hostile ambitions in Sinai that are a greater threat than terrorism, taking political advantage domestically and overseas of rumours on this issue. Rumours include that Palestinians would be relocated to a large portion of Sinai, including the area from Rafah to Sheikh Zuweid, passing through Arish, as an extension of the Gaza Strip and as a solution for the Palestinian issue. The battleground for this is the broadcast and social media, as well as political statements by some who call themselves leaders of the civilian opposition.
The arena parallel to the military “Sinai 2018” battleground is the media and a well-orchestrated media war against Egypt, which in the past succeeded in toppling other countries in the region. There is no doubt that the media greatly influences issues in society, especially after technological advances when media is available everywhere and at any time.
No one can avoid its impact, whether television, radio, in newspapers or online, and thus the media is labelled the fourth branch of power because of its strong influence on decision-making and in advancing issues. Although it does not have the power to take decisions, unlike the executive branch, or issue laws, unlike the legislative branch, it can direct public opinion and pressure the formal branches of government to issue laws and take decisions in what is sometimes a “media war”.
Media war is a complex and complicated process where ideas, rumours and misinformation are broadcast to the target audience through multiple media, to change opinions and lead them in a specific direction. It is a very dangerous type of war because it impacts the psyche of the audience and brainwashes them to change realities based on media indoctrination.
It is also a cold war with an unpredictable outcome, and sometimes those behind it are unknown. Media war is usually accompanied by other forms of war, either military, economic or political. During peacetime, it aims to spoil the minds of the youth and nation, spread chaos and destabilise their psyche, undermine their determination and will, in order to easily control them.
Many wars were won due to information and ideas propagated to soldiers. Accordingly, the armed forces in several countries have their own media and channels to broadcast their information and ideas to the public and soldiers, to control the situation during time of war.
Egypt is fighting on several battlefronts. While it battles for development and construction, it faces consecutive economic crises, some due to Egypt’s economy faltering for many years after the 25 January 2011 Revolution, and others caused by the siege and targeting of the country’s economic resources, as well as terrorist and security threats.
I believe the media battlefront is the most significant that Egypt must win. If all other battles are imposed on us and we continue to successfully combat them, the media will remain the weakest link in a state that historically always possessed soft power in the region and led the minds of the people. Today, we are the victims of a hostile media which is doing more harm than the enemy.
*This article was first published in Al-Ahram Weekly