Thursday, September 07, 2006
Glain: A Failing Egypt Policy?
"The United States gets little in return for subsidizing Mubarak’s brutality. True, Egypt has provided tactical assistance—“rendering” suspected terrorists for interrogation, for example, or negotiating the release of journalists held hostage in Gaza. But Mubarak has studiously avoided playing a constructive role on the issues of overriding, strategic importance to the United States: ending Israeli-Palestinian violence and helping to pre-empt a conflagration over Iranian nuclear ambitions. As the leader of what is widely regarded as the most influential Arab state, Mubarak has chosen to insulate himself amid Arab-world equivocation. Are these the results that Bush, the most unilateral of U.S. leaders, hoped to achieve? Either way, the Middle East is poorer for it.
"And what happens at the end of Mubarak’s term? Though widely tipped as his successor, Gamal has earned no power base of his own and will most likely flee Egypt should his father die suddenly or become incapacitated. Odds are better that Mubarak will transfer power to a military man in exchange for his own and his family’s protection, to spare them the fate that Anwar Sadat meted out to Gamal Abdel Nasser’s inner circle after the latter’s death in 1970."
"Or, Mubarak could be succeeded in free and fair elections by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, widely considered the most capable political organization in the Arab world today, with an unparalleled network of patronage and community services. Absent secular competition, the Brotherhood (which is banned as a party but fields candidates as independents) has enlarged its bloc in Parliament to 88 seats, making it the largest opposition group in Egypt. A Brotherhood victory in Egypt would shake an already tremulous Middle East. It would complete the transition of political Islam from the fringes of power to its epicenter, with unknown consequences. And absent some tough love from Cairo’s “friends” in the White House, it just might happen."
It seems like shades of the Philippines under Marcos--except we have no Corazon Aquino waiting in the wings to help minimize the fallout from when the regime comes down.
Our interests require us to work with authoritarian governments--but we should encourage "smart authoritarians" who understand the need for evolutionary reform and a stable succession. To date, this appears to be what is happening in places like Azerbaijan, where there is a chance that over time a kind of technocratic authoritarianism that leads to rule of law and economic growth along the East Asian model may emerge. This doesn't seem to be happening in Cairo.
From a Realist point of view Bush is doing all he can in Egypt: spending money and buying patronage; business as usual.
You cannot blame Bush: his policy of democratization in Egypt was in contradiction to US security needs so he dropped it.
There is a second realist approach--cutting deals. This requires having contacts with the MB and finding out what they are prepared to accept. It also requires US adjusting what it expects out of Egypt. MB will not keep what is largely a token peace treaty with Israel. But does that mean MB government would automatically go to war with Israel? Cold peace or cold war could be livable options.
I am not in disagreement.
My point was that the President's policies can be construed, at times but not always, to be realistic.
I am not advocating a no cotact policy with MB just that it will be pricky to work with them.
I doubt that they will go to war with Israel but they might, under certain circumstances, break diplomatic relations with Israel.
So US does have leverage that can be divorced from who rules Egypt.
Money buys influence and I would think that Israel would want US to keep spending money so that US at least have some leverage on a MB government.
But this is a judgement call and will have to depend on the situation on the ground when and if diplomatic relations are broken.
Boy, is that ever true.
However, not only is there no Corazon Aquino in the wings, I don't see any credible hope of a secular soft landing in Egypt.
You've already had a chance to look at a more detailed example of my feelings, but as I see it, our choices are to negotiate/get used to the Muslim Brotherhood *now* - while they are still vulnerable to Mubarak, while we talking with them is clearly a choice rather than a neccesity, and therefore gain some credibility and *influence* - and help set the stage for a peaceful transition and a milder regime outcome -
or else, stand back and talk smack from the sidelines, and have 1979 come out like it did instead of like, say, Kyrgystan.
Jordan W. '02
Correct, talk to MB if you can.
Is it possible?
Do they consider US against Islam?
What is their view?
I don't know if there is any sort of quiet dialogue underway or not--so at least we aren't taken unawares as we were in 1979.
I am currently trying to write an article on this, and I have limited resources and contacts.
If you've studied this, or if any of your friends have written or published anything, or if you just know of other institutions that have, I would be permanently grateful if you could provide some names or links in this blog.