Egypt possesses far and away the most powerful army in all of Africa, yet examination of their military record would indicate Egypt is more of a paper tiger than a legitimate military actor. This is largely because the vast majority of Egypt’s modern wars have not been fought on the African continent, but rather in the Middle East. Egypt, along with a large coalition of other Arab states, chafed with its new and unwelcome neighbor Israel after World War II. While Egypt has had several other wars with countries such as the UK, France, and several Middle Eastern states, its most damaging and territorially significant conflicts have been with Israel. From early in its independence Egypt has militarily engaged Israel for a wide variety of reasons, but since the peace accords of 1973 it has shifted its focus towards other Arab states and internal divisions.
From 1948-1973 Egypt would be in a near constant state of war. During this era Egypt would not see peace last for more than seven consecutive years. Egypt’s first major war since its partial independence in 1922 was set off by the creation of Israel in 1948, sparking the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Egypt joined Syria, Jordan and Iraq in a joint attack on Israel in the hopes of expelling the Jewish immigrants and abolishing Israel before it could establish itself. The war was both a tactical and strategic defeat for Arab states. While the Arab forces initially seized several settlements and large tracts of land, they were quickly forced back by strong Israeli retaliation. Israel proceeded to beat back Egyptian forces, ultimately forcing a landmark peace treaty that dramatically increased the size of Israel. The embarrassment caused by this defeat was an important element in leading to Nasser’s dictatorship, as his strong pan-Arab sentiments appealed to a populous that felt threatened and humiliated.
Egypt suffered another major defeat in 1956 in what has come to be known as the Suez Crisis. When Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal (thus expelling the British forces stationed there) Brittan made a pact with Israel. Israel agreed to invade the Sinai with French and British backing to capture the canal and us it as a bargaining chip to acquire more land. Egyptian forces were utterly thrashed and completely surrounded within five days. Despite this military defeat, Egypt ultimately considered this war a victory. While they had to make several concessions, the canal remained theirs and Israeli coalition forces were forced to withdraw in international humiliation once it became clear the war was a land grab. The Suez Crisis also had the profound effect of ending Brittan’s role as a superpower, as this conflict began Brittan’s eventual decline from the top of the world stage.
Egypt continued fighting with Israel for the next several decades, with future dictators engaging in the Six Day War of 1967 and the October War of 1973. These wars followed a similar pattern of Israeli military dominance but not always political victory. Egyptian-Israeli conflict officially ended with the Camp David Accords in 1978. Egypt participated in the Gulf War, however 21st century Egyptian violence has tragically been focused more upon its own people. Egypt’s various dictators have all used violence in some capacity, and the current president, al-Sissi, has proven he is no exception. Mass execution trials and state killings have remained a regular tool in enforcing al-Sissi’s rule of law.