Video: US challenge in Egypt is to guide 'amorphous mass' toward a process

To avoid bloodshed and ensure democracy in Egypt, a political process of some sort is needed, Zbigniew Brzezinski says. The challenge is tougher than it was to help European freedom movements decades ago.

Michael Bonfigli / The Christian Science Monitor
Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski speaking at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast for reporters in Washington, on Thursday.

The challenge for US policymakers in dealing with the crisis in Egypt is tougher than what officials faced helping freedom movements in central Europe decades ago, says Zbigniew Brzezinski, White House national security adviser under Jimmy Carter.

“The problem in Egypt is that we have an amorphous mass that is rebelling against a dictatorship. So our sympathies are with them. But how do we translate that into a democratic takeover? That is the challenge,” Mr. Brzezinski said Thursday at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast for reporters.

“And one has to go beyond slogans on that. One has to have, as I keep repeating, a political process of some sort unless you want to have just bloodshed in the streets,” the veteran foreign policy expert said. He is currently a counselor and trustee at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a professor at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, both in Washington.

EXCLUSIVE MONITOR PHOTOS: Egypt in turmoil (updated daily)

Brzezinski spoke before the Egyptian army announced it had stepped in to "safeguard the nation" and before it was known that President Mubarak would address the nation.

In some ways, supporting the democratic movements in central Europe was easier, he implied. “We had people and movements that were really for democracy,” Brzezinski said. And in the case of the Solidarity movement in Poland, “you had an alliance between trade unions, intellectuals, the Church, and some parts of the army that were secretly helping us too. So we knew what we were doing.”

Finding a political process that leads to change in Egypt is a better option than street violence, he said. “If you want bloodshed in the streets as a way of getting a victory, then you have to calculate what are the chances that those guys [protesters] will prevail. My guess is that if you have blood in the street, they are not going to prevail, the army will prevail,” Brzezinski said.

EXCLUSIVE MONITOR PHOTOS: Egypt in turmoil (updated daily)

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