Much More is Still Needed to Be Done

Much More is Still Needed to Be Done
Jihad El Khazen    

Dr. Condoleezza Rice left the Middle East at the end of her flying visit and left the rulers discontent, without pleasing the masses. My personal assessment: as if sagacity won over the required and the possible.


What the US Secretary of State said didn’t surprise anyone wherever she went. Her political proposals were already introduced, a  week earlier, during the first press conference of her term as Secretary of State. She zeroed in on the political reform in Egypt, including the election of the President through general elections between two contenders, commenting that although positive the move was not enough.  With similar breath she talked about the municipal elections in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


Dr. Rice acknowledged that “democracy cannot be achieved within the span of 24 hours”. She wondered whether what has been done so far is enough, replying: “No, much more work will still be needed to be done”.


In my opinion, not a single Arab ruler can pretend to have accomplish  enough for his people in terms of reforms. I don’t think, either, that there is a single Arab citizen who consider having obtained his full rights. 


Despite these facts, some officials criticized the Secretary of State’s defense of women’s rights, political transparency, freedom of speech and demonstration. The Opposition, especially in Egypt, went further to accuse the US Secretary of dealing softly with the Governments.


The central point in Dr. Rice’s trip has been promulgated at the American University of Cairo in the following quotation: “ For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region, here in the Middle East, and we achieved neither. Now we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.”


This Democracy will be made possible only at the expense of the rulers since people will partake in the prerogatives. Opposition origination from the higher strata is only to be expected. The ratio of reforms that will be executed by any government will be relative to the people’s pressure, in concomitance with the outside (U.S.) pressure; no more no less. Nevertheless, all those “populations” that heard Dr. Rice, especially the 600  listener at the auditorium of the American University of Cairo, who didn’t applaud the Secretary when she spoke about Democracy. The applause came for other matters, instead. For example, the audience gave their applause for questions raised concerning the U.S. condoning the massacres that Israel is committing against the Palestinians, in addition to the mistreatment of the Guantanamo Bay and Abu Graib detainees and  the ongoing cycle of violence and killing in Iraq.


Democracy is required and not only desired. This is categorical. Speaking of Democracy, the ordinary Arab citizen cannot ignore the continuous tragedy in Palestine and Iraq.


Before delving into the world of politics, Dr. Rice was a University Professor. She should have taught and learned a lot through previous debates. She is surely wiser than to miss the stance of a university audience. She should have grasped that if this is the stance of the intellectual class, that of the popular ones should be even more rigorous.


Actually, the Arabs should not be offered the choice between either Democracy or freedom for the Palestinians and peace in Iraq. It is as if one has to tell: Do you love your father more than your father?  Democracy doesn’t deserve its name unless it spells justice and peace.


On her way back to Europe, then to the U.S., Dr. Rice might have had the time to weigh up what she heard. She welcomed the meeting with the university audience. She refuse to meet the Muslim Brotherhood since it is prohibited; she is not the one who offends the laws of the hosting country.


She doesn’t need to see the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in order to realize that the organization is more radical (the last term could be wrong) than the audience she met with. She is fully aware that the Islamic Groups in Egypt, form the majority of the Opposition and that they are very well organized, disseminated all over the country and enjoy a wide presence in the street.


The question is: Is the Democracy promoted by the Bush Administration wide enough to encompass the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, as well as Islamists in all Arab countries? Many news report an American inclination to acknowledge the scale of the Islamic Opposition in the Arab countries; thereupon, it is imperative to deal with those groups even if the move will entail offering an electoral victory to these groups and bringing them to power.


These news are reported in the media, in major think thanks conferences and in TV shows analysis. I am not sure if they reflect a real trend within the Bush Administration or infiltrations to scare the targeted Arab Governments, to instigate them to speed up the authentic democratic reform process.


The Arab world’s need of Reform, Democracy and Freedom is as vital as its need for air and water. I hope that no ruler or subject will oppose them, for the mere fact that they emanate from the U.S. Administration, which is facing a recoil, if not a plunge, of credibility amongst most Arabs.


The American credibility reached its peak in the days of Eisenhower, then gradually eroded till nowadays. It almost vanished. It is not going to recover by the mere talk about Democracy and Freedom. Some deeds are required in Palestine, in Iraq and in various countries in the region.


The young Secretary must be fully aware that “much more is still needed to be done” against Ariel Sharon, not with him. Notably, after the fiasco  of his meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas, two days before her arrival in the region. The Quartet’s meeting in London should come up with a positive and practical outcome.


I hope that Dr. Rice learnt from us some essentials, despite her short visit.  At the same time, I hope that we learned from her about the Freedom and Democracy demand. As I hope no reader will be offended when I say that  an independent Palestinian state without Democracy is tantamount to occupation, under a different name. 


I am personally optimistic, although a bit cautious, because the US Secretary of State is smart. She has enough courage to face rulers and peoples alike with the Truth.