The American Dilemma in Egypt

Should the people of a given country be allowed to vote in free and fair elections, even if the people they elect are fundamentally hostile to the United States?

That is the great question which is facing America today, as protests have toppled the leader of Tunisia and now threaten the presidency of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

Almost everybody agrees that Mr. Mubarak is a dictator who does not respect human rights or promote democracy. He is a typical example of the authoritarian leader, whose values are fundamentally at odds with those of the United States. It is quite conceivable that the current protests will end in bloodshed, with the military firing upon civilians in a Bloody Sunday-style massacre.

In a perfect world, a peaceful revolution would topple Mr. Mubarak and install a new democratic government.  Said government would be moderate, friendly to the West, and firmly against Islamic extremism.

Unfortunately, the truth is that Mr. Mubarak’s strongest political opponents are the Muslim Brotherhood, a proudly Islamist movement with broad popular support. If the protests in Egypt succeed in toppling the dictator, the most likely situation is the formation (through free and fair elections) of an Islamist government hostile to the United States.

Therein lies America’s dilemma – betray its ideals and support an “ally,” or keep its ideals and allow an anti-American government to take power.

Historically, the United States has chosen the former option. During the Cold War, dictators were always perceived as better than popularly elected Communist governments. Today replace Communism with Islamism, and one gets the same idea.

Yet think about this: why do the people of Egypt so dislike the United States? Why would they most likely elect, if given a choice, an anti-American government?

The answer, of course, is because the United States keeps on supporting dictators like Mr. Mubarak! In fact, that is why Osama bin Laden attacked the United States – because it continues allying with dictators in the Middle East, in direct contradiction of its democratic values.

Why does the United States support these dictators? Because it knows free democratic elections will result in anti-American governments. Why would elections result in anti-American governments? Because the United States keeps on supporting dictators who oppress the people. And on and on the cycle goes.

The problem is that dictators may not stay in power forever. A U.S.-supported dictator, if unpopular enough, may fall. Iran and Vietnam are just two examples in which this happened. Today Iran is a determined foe of the United States. On the other hand, the communist government in Vietnam is quite friendly to America.

In the short term supporting friendly dictators might benefit American interests. In the long run, however, supporting those who oppress their people probably does more harm than good to America – and more importantly, to the cause of freedom and democracy.

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7 Responses to The American Dilemma in Egypt

  1. Terry says:

    It’s sad to see an analysis being so extremely sensitive to external interests of the US instead of the wishes of the Egyptian people. You bring up the Islamism card, exactly like the representatives of the criminal state of Israel do. It’s quite extreme to do that. Maybe not extreme from the US perspective where AIPAC hijacked the country’s ME policies. But, in a global perspective it’s Zionism extremism. Let the Egyptian people decide in free and fair elections what government is going to represent them. Anything else is arrogant, subversive and oppressive.

    • inoljt says:

      Well, my analysis is from the basis of America’s perspective because I am an American.

      Nothing else to it than that.

  2. Oliver Chettle says:

    The overall interests of the American people simply aren’t taken into consideration in the setting of American foreign policy. With a political system wide open to manipulation by vested interests, and a public ignorant of and disinterested in the rest of the world, time and time again the U.S. follows policies which are obviously not in its national interest, but are in the interest of single-issue groups who have bribed or manipulated American politicians.

    In the Middle East, the United States does not follow a ruthless policy of looking after its own interests, as is sometimes falsely alleged. Its involvement in the region has increased the long term average cost of oil, and will continue to do so. And whenever oil prices are low, all of America’s competitors share the benefit, because oil is a fungible commodity. No, the Middle Eastern policy of the United States is based on ruthlessly doing what is in the best interests of Israel. If the United States broke free of Zionist mental occupation (which is partly a Cold War hangover, but mainly a product of Christian Fundamentalist readings of the Book of Revelation), most of its supposedly intractable problems would go away. The reality is that the Middle East is a remote and economically marginal region where the United States has no real strategic interests.

  3. David Ajie says:

    Egypt is the only Arab country formally at peace with Israel and Mubarak is the only Arab leader that the Israelis can respect. If he goes, there would be no one respectable enough to urge Hamas & co to dialogue. If he goes, there would be no bulwark against anti-Jewish aggression ie Iran, Syria and the groups they “support”. So America’s main concern is not democracy, but the status quo in the Mid-East. He (Mubarak) represents a force against militant Islam.

  4. Babylon Burns says:

    We have a very recent example: Hamas. Freely and fairly elected but those who elected them are subjected to US, European and Isreali collective punishment.

    Egypt does not just need the US to respect the outcome of free elections, it requires the Egyptian army to do so and to be ready to change its high command to suit the demands of the people.

  5. Adam Denzels says:

    It really should be pointed out that any government at all, not just potentially an Islamic one, chosen by the free people of Egypt would be one that is not going to be good for the USA. That includes a secularist one. Any government chosen by the people, even if it’s not necessarily hostile to the USA, will not pursue the same policies with regards to dealings in the Israel-Palestine conflict, Iran, etc. If all this happened years ago then going to war on Iraq would’ve been a big problem for USA as I don’t see that a democratic Egypt would have co-operated. That’s why USA would much rather have the dictator Mubarak stay so that they, and Israel, can always have their way, than have a democratic one, whether Islamic or secular.

    This is such hypocrisy and double-standards and it makes a total mockery of the values they espouse. If they had any shred of decency what their position should be is this: It is time for dictator Mubarak and his illegitimate government to go. The people of Egypt must have free and fair elections to choose a new government. Regardless of who wins, whether it’s someone hostile to us or not, we respect the winner since they have been chosen by the people, and we will make every effort to establish a mutually respectful relationship with them.

    • inoljt says:

      You’re quite right that any popularly elected government in Egypt will be less friendly to the United States. And so the United States faces a great dilemma.

      I would disagree, however, with the statement that the “USA would much rather have the dictator Mubarak stay so that they, and Israel, can always have their way, than have a democratic one, whether Islamic or secular.”

      America’s newspapers have been quite supportive of the Egyptian protesters. The Obama administration has been naturally more cautious, but it’s obviously pretty sympathetic to the protesters. So am I.

      I would say the American foreign policy establishment is quite uncertain on what to do at the moment. Actually, it can’t really do anything.

      The fate of Egypt is up to the Egyptians.

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