Egypt, Israel & Democracy

The Obama administration is helping negotiate the terms of Egyptian President Mubarak’s resignation. While we in this country might see this as advancing democracy in the Arab world, Israel is evidently under no such illusions. The Jewish State has witnessed the catastrophic result of so-called democratic elections in the Mideast with something less than joy. Iran ended up with an autocratic Islamic regime. Gaza elected Hamas and tossed out the more moderate Palestinian Authority, and Lebanon recently installed Hezbollah. There is certainly no guarantee that elections in Egypt would not empower the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mubarak, for all his many faults, has maintained the peace with Israel, kept Hamas bottled up in Gaza, and made war against Israel by its neighbors a practical impossibility, to the great benefit of both countries. Israel sees moves by the United States to speed Mubarak’s departure as foolish in the extreme. The idea that caught my attention in a recent Huffington post article was that Israel believes that the United States has confused the “mechanics of democracy”–a popular election–with the real thing–an open and vibrant political conversation, all parties represented, minority concerns protected, an impartial judiciary, honest police, civilian control of the military, fair tax collection.

They have a point, one that has been confirmed again and again by the unfortunate outcomes of recent regime changes in the Muslim world. The United States failed for thirty years to demand that Mubarak moderate his authoritarian rule as a price of our support, instead buying into the notion that the only choice was Mubarak or the Islamists he repressed. With his fall now imminent, our unwavering economic and military aid to an increasingly unpopular regime may well have made that assessment a self-fulfilling prophecy.

8 thoughts on “Egypt, Israel & Democracy”

  1. The tragic events now taking place in Egypt are similar to those that have taken place around the world when the United States has supported dictators who abuse and neglect their people. The Egyptian government uses torture and terror to maintain its power over its people with the blessing of and 1.4 billion dollars a year from the United States. Not only did they torture and terrorize their own people, but they set up secret prisons for us and tortured other nationals on our behalf. This is similar to what we did with the Shah in Iran. Hopefully it won’t turn out the same way.

    The really sad thing is that the history of the United States is filled with such examples. From El Salvador to the Philippines, our government has supported and sponsored dictatorships, torture and terrorism around the world for decades. From the 50’s assignation of one of the only democratically elected leaders in the Middle East in Iran to Egypt today we continue to lose the people of these countries because of our failure to live up to our ideals and laws.

    If we want a peaceful world we must force our government to act peaceably in it.

  2. Remember that “they hate our freedoms” nonsense from the last administration?

    Well, the truth is a lot harder to swallow.

    They hate us for meddling in their internal affairs for 60 years or more.

    Why should they even pretend to trust us to do the right thing now?

  3. Americans seem to think that people will CHOOSE democracy when they have a choice, but alas, it’s not to be unless they understand that it means keeping on making choices…
    Until they are educated enough to understand the wonder of that, they will choose the familiar: dictators with good raps.

    1. Think back to our own revolution. How many of the folks actually were educated enough to choose deomcracy?

      Even then, democracy is a work in progess as women and slaves (blacks) were not included in the “all men are created equal”….

  4. Ed, your middle paragraph is brilliant. Voting is only a small part of what makes a democracy. I am puzzled by some of the commenters views that seem to say that anything that goes wrong in the world is the fault of the US. We are not perfect but I am pretty sure we are not that evil. Your last point about how we should have been pushing Egypt to liberalize earlier is well taken, but of course we would then have been accused of imposing our Western values on them.

  5. If the United States decided not to meddle in foreign governments, we would not have these anti-western factions. These factions coalesce around the idea and common experience of western imperialism in modern times. It is no surprise that Islamist factions emerge as the most powerful in revolutions when every other cohesive resistance movement has been essentially dismantled or weakened by the west. Islamists were not a very powerful faction until we made them one.

    I guess we can pat ourselves on the back for that one.

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