To understand the role of the military in Egypt, we've never heard a more coherent description than in Professor Richard Bulliett's 2011 talk sponsored here in Minnesota,
"Once the neo-Mamluks come into power, their goal is to tap deep roots, through appropriating assets, government monopolies, and widespread nepotism. A kleptocracy is their modus operandi. That is how, for example, the Egyptian military controls most of the prime residential and leisure real estate in Egypt. Once the neo-Mamluks are established, their ideology is very flexible. They are relatively indifferent about secularism, Islamism, socialism, capitalism, or fascism, as long as nothing affects their finances and life styles. While both U.S. political parties may long for an nineteenth century ideal of a secular democracies in the Middle East, this is not even in the political calculus of the neo-Mamluks."Unlike say the Pakistani military, the Egyptian military doesn't have a fervent desire to run a government, so a "military coup" would be an undesirable last resort. But for the Egyptian military to have given an almost unattainable 48 hour ultimatum means that they see real danger to their assets and lifestyles.
Again, Professor Bulliett called the current situation right back in 2011,
"Free and fair" elections will not occur, but rather "credible" elections in which Bulliet says that the Muslim Brotherhood may even achieve a plurality. However, they too understand the rules. Don't go overboard with any reforms that bring the eyes of the world on Egypt, take the counsel of the generals and protect their privileges.President Morsi's pan-Arab ambitions may have not been on the agendas of Egypt's generals. In addition to dealing with the real economic and social needs of his populace, Morsi will have to placate the generals and give up some of his chest-puffing pan-Arab rhetoric to make the generals more comfortable as they vacation at their villas.