Uprising in Egypt isn't just about freedom and democracy
The discontent boiling to the surface in the Arab world is as much driven by complex demographics as politics. So politics alone won't restore stability. The US must come to terms with its reduced role in the region and reassess strategic partnerships.
(Page 3 of 3)
Whatever government follows Mubarak for the short-term may serve as little more than a temporary safety valve, because we cannot escape the fact that most Middle East societies have proved resistant to reform regardless of who’s in power. The problems wracking Egyptian society and driving mobs of discontented protesters have less to do with a particular regime, and more to do with the underlying issues at play in Arab societies. Those problems will not go away with a new government.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Egyptian protests
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Avoid the blame game
One of the worst mistakes to be made at this point is a blame game. From Israel, some pundits are already shrieking, “Obama lost Egypt.” Some Israeli hysteria is understandable, given its earlier wars with Egypt. But suggesting that President Obama “lost Egypt” makes about as much sense as other blanket assignments of blame for “all that is wrong” in the Middle East. If Egypt is lost, Egyptians will have lost it, and there is not a lot any US administration could have done.
Even more nonsensical is former Bush administration Deputy National Security Advisor Elliot Abrams saying that the riots vindicate the Bush administration’s crusade for a democratic remake of the Middle East. Mr. Abrams’ criticism might have been more credible if the Bush administration had not spent eight years colluding with Israel to deny democracy to Palestinians.
US needs hard-nosed look and strategic partners
The violence in Cairo is not really just about “freedom and democracy,” as one broadcaster reporting from Egypt for the Western media intoned. Rather, it can be better described as a threatening mob at times. As riots have raged on, many of the protesters weren’t exactly watering the tree of liberty, and it wasn’t the tone of “peaceful resistance” raiding and burning Cairo this weekend.
What romantic characterizations of democratic uprisings leave out is that the Egyptian street has also long been fueled by a seething hatred of Israel and the United States, going back to the days of the late Gamal Abdul Nasser, Egypt’s second president. Trying to defang that wrath cost another Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat, his life. As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has said, the extent that the Muslim Brotherhood or any Islamic party fills a power vacuum after Mubarak has to be a serious concern in Washington and the region.
The US must now take a hard-nosed look at the situation in Egypt and come to terms with its reduced role in the region. Only by calling on the needed friendship of strategic partners such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia can the America hope to regain any peace or standing in the region.
Walter Rodgers is a former senior international correspondent for CNN. He has written this piece specially this week, in addition to his regular, biweekly column for the Monitor.