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What “Should” We Do or Should We Do Anything At All?
What “Should” We Do or Should We Do Anything At All?
Yesterday, Abu Aardvark posted on a talk on “democracy in Egypt” he gave at a POMED hosted seminar. The seminar seeemed to be focused on the general
Tuesday, September 16,2008 10:18
by Rob Arabicsource.Wordpress.com

Posted on by Rob

Yesterday, Abu Aardvark  posted on a talk on “democracy in Egypt” he gave  at a POMED hosted seminar.   The seminar  seeemed to be focused on the general question of “what should the US do? ”  about Democracy in Egypt.   See the conference notes here.   One of his readers  readers, an  Arab-American, left a response that makes some points that I think are critical to make when discussing Egyptian politcs, but, for some reason rarely are mentioned:

We often talk about the U.S. backtracking on democracy promotion in the Middle East and its abandoning of reformers in the region, however, it remains unclear to me as to what precisely Egyptians would like the U.S to do to help bring democracy to their country. Quite frankly, I don’t think Egyptians themselves have a clear answer to that question.

Ask any member of the opposition whether Islamist, liberal or leftist about U.S. role and they will immediately declare their rejection of any meddling by the U.S. in Egypt’s internal affairs, even refusing any pressure on the Egyptian regime from nationalist stand point. On the other hand, when the U.S. decides not to intervene in Egypt’s domestic affairs the same opposition outcries over its [U.S.] alleged backtracking on democracy and keeping blind eye the Egyptian government practices.

The truth of the matter is that Egyptians themselves are to be blamed for the crisis their country is facing right now mainly because of their political apathy and their worship of their rulers, something Egyptians are known for since the ancient days of the Pharos. Throughout history Egyptians have never revolted against their rulers and will never do no matter how corrupt and unjust they can get. It is the exactly the same overly forgiving , laid back, unconfrontational and apathetic nature of Egyptians that stands today a major obstacle in their way to attain freedom and democracy.

In a country that 60% of its people are illiterate and more than 45% earn less than $2 per day, it is almost impossible to mobilize them for the sake of democracy or human rights- they could care less. The average Egyptian is struggling to put bread on the table for his/her children and they can be beaten day and night by their heavy handed police forces and will not move a finger in protest. They’re prone to fear the government- typical feeling for those who are living in police state.

All the voices of reform you listed- journalists, moderate Islamists, judges, liberal opposition, bloggers, constitute small portion of the patriotic and educated elite and who are unable, so far, to mobilize the masses because simply politics is not the center of their attention- they are struggling to make living.

What does the U.S. have to do with this? And why should we get involved if the people themselves prefer the status quo!

When thousands of the people of Ukraine (population of 48 millions) took to the streets in 2004 protesting against their corrupt government forcing it to resign in what became known as the “Orange revolution” they did it by themselves and did not sit around waiting for the U.S. to rescue them.

I find it hard to believe that the 2 billion dollars the U.S. gives to Egypt in aid every year is the main reason responsible for keeping the Egyptian regime in power against the will of its own people. If Egyptians rise up against government and demand change and democracy the U.S. will never object or intervene to save the regime or suppress the people.

Egyptians themselves are confused, divided and unwilling to change, so why bother!

1) As someone who focuses on Egypt pretty closely and has spent signifigant time there, I think this analysis is spot-on and the points he makes are critical for understanding “whats going on in Egypt.”    The vast majority of Egyptians do not care about politics and it seems to have something do with the Egyptian nature (as compared to say Iraqis or Saudis) .  Or maybe they say they care and complain about the status-quo but they are not, with only a few exceptions,  willing to do anything about it.  Yes, as this guy points out, this is largely related to economics.  If one spends all of their time trying to just earn  enough money to put food on the table and barely get by, there will be no time to think about politics.  This is not an Egyptian thing, its a universal thing. However, even amongst the segments of society that do have time to think about politics ( a substantial portion), there is massive apathy and very little willingness to act on their complaints.  This as much as anything explains why there is no Democracy in Egypt.  I would also agree that the $2 Billion in aid has very little to do with keeping the Egyptian regime in power. 

2)   My above point exlains why I believe there is no democracy in Egypt.  But now the question is what should the US do about bringing democracy to Egypt?  This guy point about Egyptians from all political persuasions rejecting any American intervention in their domestic concerns but  at the same time complaining when the US ignores the lack of democracy is spot-on.  Basically, the US can not win here.   So what should it do?  I  don’t see why it should do anything and am not convinced that the US should play any role in encouraging democracy in Egypt.  It has to be an Egyptian effort otherwise it will be rejected.  There is very litte the US can or should do.

UPDATE:  Read this very good Economist article whish very nicely captures “whats going on” in Egypt.



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