A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"Security Fatigue" as a Tactic

Egyptian protesters on Twitter last night were urging each other to keep demonstrating all night so the Central Security Forces and other police would get no sleep, stretching them even thinner in anticipation of Friday's big "million person" march. As a psywar tactic, it's interesting, provided you have enough people to do it in shifts; otherwise you wear yourselves out too. It's one of a number of issues embraced by the term "security fatigue."

Especially for those of us older than some of the demonstrators, who remember that in February 1986, conscripts in the Egyptian Central Security Forces — the very folks you're seeing in the pictures — rioted and attacked hotels at the pyramids over reports their conscription period was to be extended. They had to bring in the Army to put down the police. If the young, underpaid CSF rank and file — who are part of the Egyptian people, too — are stretched thin and facing down their contemporaries to defend an octogenarian, results could be interesting. Or, of course, they could be so much on edge that they respond even more violently. But "security fatigue," a recognized issue in protracted conflicts, just might become an issue here.

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