September 20, 2014

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  • Does US want democratic Egypt?

    Screen grab from an interview with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during an official visit to Egypt days before the March 2011 referendum on constitutional amendments.

    BY SARA KHORSHID
    Cairo: It’s understandable that each country is entitled to pursue its national interests, and that one country’s national interest may partially conflict with that of another. But it’s difficult to comprehend how a country’s interests would be fixated around  the Middle East’s stability, and Israel’s security —  to the bitter end.Before Egypt’s January 2011 revolution, US President Barack Obama ignored calls by pro-democracy advocates against the American alliance with the ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak. But even the revolution has not been enough proof to convince American decision makers that stability under a US- and Israel-friendly, yet dictatorial regime is phony and unsustainable.

    Back to square one, the Obama administration in March 2012 restored its $1.3 billion annual military aid to Egypt, waiving a Congressional requirement that links military assistance to the protection of basic freedoms.

    The US’ decisive support for Egypt’s ruling military council ridicules attempts by American officials to give the US credit for Egyptians’ pro-democracy efforts. It flies in the face of claims by the US Ambassador last year of spending millions of US dollars in aid to Egyptian “pro-democracy groups.”

    For years, American politicians have claimed to support democratization efforts in Egypt, a support that has always been reluctant and shaky; a support that has never been genuine enough to the point of provoking those ruling Egypt into violating the security of bordering Israel.

    Many US politicians know that they will never attain the two goals of a seeing real democracy in Egypt while at the same time preserving the region’s status quo. Yet they continue — especially mainstream Democrats and neoconservatives from the Republican side — to speak about supporting democratization in Egypt, often mocking themselves by making conflicting statements that reflect a vague, fluctuating stance.

    The rhetoric about promoting democracy in a country that witnessed an awe-inspiring revolution that is said to have impressed the world for 18 days could help US politicians live up to American public opinion expectations of their country’s position as the righteous world leader.

    But because the democratization of Egypt could mean an independent Middle Eastern state with policies that reflect what the majority of Egyptians want, policies that defend Egyptian national interests, the US brand of democracy propagated here is not meant to be genuine.

    It could be tailored to the neoconservative vision of the New American Century Project, which views a future democracy in the Middle East only under the US’ leadership of the world. Or it could be in line with the ultraconservative view that Egypt will be a democracy only if run by hardcore secularists, regardless of the striking unpopularity of the Egyptian secular elite — and ironically regardless of the fact that the American proponents of such a perspective are strongly opposed to liberal secularists on their own turf, in the United States.

    But now that the most populous country in the region may be ruled by Muslim Brothers for at least the next four years, American politicians have been forced to deal with those who don’t live up to the American standards of modernity. US rulers seem to tolerate the Muslim Brothers as long as they pledge to honor the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty and maintain a free market economy in line with the neoliberal, pro-privatization guidance of the Western-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which kept praising the Egyptian economy’s performance under Mubarak and former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif’s businessmen-dominated cabinet until shortly before the revolution. An increasingly right-wing Egypt was reported by the Wall Street Journal in August 2010 to be “a Washington economic favorite”, shortly before millions of Egyptians burst into the historic chant of “bread, freedom, social justice.”

    It is unfair to attribute the constitutional mess and the stagnant democratization that Egypt is living through now to the US alliance alone, but it is accurate to acknowledge that the US has been praising the undemocratic transitional process and the fake elections it has seen. This lopsided process, designed by the ruling military council, began with the election of a parliament and a president before drafting a constitution that would allocate powers to the state’s legislative and executive bodies.

    As Egyptians first revolted and ousted Mubarak despite the US support for him, they will eventually lead their distressed revolution to success, and Egypt will become a democracy and will become independent from US influence. And those who will rule post-revolution Egypt, regardless of how “revolutionary” they may seem, are not expected to dance to America’s tune as Mubarak did.

    As much as the United States likes to think that Egyptians need it, it is America that needs Egypt, or else it would not have given it more than $60 billion of American tax payers’ money over the past three decades.

    A democratic Egypt, which is yet to be shaped, will eventually thrive — with or without US support. Once this dream becomes a reality, whoever rules Egypt will no longer be able to ignore the will and interests of Egyptians.

    Sooner or later, an American-Israeli zero-sum calculation may seize to be viable.

    Sara Khorshid is an Egyptian journalist and columnist who has written on Egypt and on Muslim-Western relations for the past 10 years. Her articles are published in The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Al Shorouk Egyptian daily, Alarabiya.net, Common Ground News Service, Znet, and numerous other media outlets. Until July 2009 she was the managing editor of IslamOnline.net’s Politics in Depth Section (now OnIslam.net). She can be reached at sarakhorshid[at]gmail[dot]com.

    Comments
    4 Responses to “Does US want democratic Egypt?”
    1. Moneim Zaki says:

      Ayman, with due respect the three items you mentioned are mistakes but are not the real reasons of why Egypt is at the situation it is in now. The real reason is a corrupt military rule that will not relinquish power, as they are continuing from day one till now to abort the January 25, 2011 revolution.They are supported by American administrations since 1979 to sadly the present one that seemed to raise false hopes when Obama went to Cairo and gave his speech. American and Israeli interests are faithfully served by the military starting with Sadat.

    2. Ayman says:

      It is a shame that we continue to fall in for the post colonial mindset and looking at a foreign power to claim. US best interests are clearly in avoiding extremism after 9/11 has proven the danger to US from oppressive stability. Obama coming to Cairo and talking of democracy & human rights and Mubarak staying away is part of this. Let’s now see where Egyptian Jan25 forces went wrong:
      1. failed to meet Clinton when she came to Cairo following Mubrarak’s departure
      2. April 6 leaders while on visit to US refused Congress invitations & instead engaged in boring old anti Americanism
      3. While the Islamist were busy showing the world that they can be a responsible lot, the left side of the revolution was engaging in absurdities such as burning the flag of Israel from its embassy and talking voodoo economics.

      Much like we did internally due to our own failures as exemplified by the presidential election choices, the US Government has only the 2 choices to deal with Islamists & SCAF.

      Time to move on beyond disempowering ourselves and blaming it all on America and colonial masters,

      Ayman

    3. Yosra says:

      Well said, Sara. This is not about blaming the US for Egypt’s problems, Abu Saif, but highlighting their fake version of democracy and so called pro democracy efforts. It would be totally OK with us that the US leave us alone without interference or support. But let’s say that Clinton’s latest statement and giving the green light to the military to bring their candidate is totally shameful. Not to mention their initially very late support of the revolution. We don’t want to blame the US but we hope they won’t claim they helped democracy either. It’s either they want to play a role and hold responsibility for it or let them get their hands out of our country.

    4. Abu Saif says:

      Sara what is this you have written you know better. Now the way is back to blame the Americans game for Egypts problems I am starting to think your parents wasted thier money on Educating you EDA EDA EDA The USA pulled all support for Mubarak on day 10 and pulled all support for Egyptions NGOs after you the people demanded it by throwing people in jail if the money came from the west ( but still allowed Sulifist and MB money to flow from the Gulf ) Now cause your like a bunch of children not getting your way you blame the USA and Isreal for the brilliant counter revolutionary move just played by your Falooul by allowing the revolution to hold its election and allow it to split itself apart with to many players and no leaders as it did till were left with only the Brotherhood to deal with a much weaker one and then lower the bomb and shut it down and start again and thats where we are the last year of no plan and only revolutionary noise without substance has brought Egypt to the state its in today Not the USA this was a made in Egypt ran by Egyptions mess please dont pass the blame around the rest of the world knows better as do Egyptions these days

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