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The American Dilemma in Egypt

By: Inoljt,

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.

More below.

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.


  1. jsfox

    First, yes the US should have no option, but to respect what ever the people of Egypt desire. This includes the Muslim Brotherhood if that is what they want. To do otherwise is to make a lie of what we supposedly believe. Now there is a big difference between what we should do and what we will do. So far what I have been hearing and reading out of State and the Administration tends to be leaning towards the Egyptian people will choose.

    Next as to the Muslim Brotherhood so far ( and that is a big caveat ) they have avoided weighing in too heavily on these protest other than supporting the right of the Egyptian people to do so and agreeing that it is time for Mubarak to go.

    For a little peak into the mindset of the Muslim Brotherhood there is this interview by Micheal Downey with Khaled Hamza, “editor of the Muslim Brotherhood’s official website.”

    According to Downey “Hamza is considered a leading voice of moderation within the party, and is central to its youth-outreach efforts.” One section of interest:

    The Iranians follow the Ayatollah; we do not believe Islam requires a theocracy. In our view, the ulema (clergy) are only for teaching and education-they are out of the political sphere. Iran has some good things, such as elections, but we disagree with all the aggression. We disagree also with the human rights abuses from the government and attacks on the population.

    Then there is this from Paul Cruickshank a Alumni Fellow at the NYU Center on Law and Security

    The risks of a post-Mubarak era have arguably been exaggerated. The Mubarak regime for many years presented Western governments with a stark choice — “us or the Islamists,” but the scenes on Egypt’s streets have for once and for all discredited such crude and self-serving formulations. The Muslim Brotherhood — in taking a back seat in the protests, ruling out fielding a presidential candidate and backing the Nobel Peace Prize-winning diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei for the top job — are hardly behaving like revolutionaries.

    I think what happens today will be the deciding factor on whether Mubarak goes or the protesters get crushed. Presently the million person march on the Presidential Palace is on going. The Army has not stopped it. If the Army continues to hold back Mubarak is more than likely history.

    And like the White House we better start scrambling to learn as much about

    Mohamed ElBaradeias we can because he appears to becoming more and more the face of the opposition.

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