Democracy in Egypt: Realism on America’s Role

As the Egyptian military dissolved the Parliament — but called for elections to replace them, a critical point that risks being swallowed by the dangerous-sounding headline — our President embraces the institution’s role in recreating the Egyptian state:

The military has served patriotically and responsibly as a caretaker to the state, and will now have to ensure a transition that is credible in the eyes of the Egyptian people.  That means protecting the rights of Egypt’s citizens, lifting the emergency law, revising the constitution and other laws to make this change irreversible, and laying out a clear path to elections that are fair and free.  Above all, this transition must bring all of Egypt’s voices to the table.  For the spirit of peaceful protest and perseverance that the Egyptian people have shown can serve as a powerful wind at the back of this change.

Obama shows a realistic understanding of our role in rebuilding Egypt, ideally, into the region’s first true Muslim democracy. America comes to the table with slightly less popularity than the deposed President. Taking sides in the process is therefore unwise, as it’s not our place; likely counterproductive; and dangerous, given the region’s history with democracy. Too much American meddling could lead to elections, yes, but elections in which extremists take lawful power, thus sending Egypt into a fundamentalist, totalitarian abyss for another few decades, à la Algeria. Praise for the people’s current reform vehicle, and the people’s stated goals, is about the best we can do right now.

It’s nuanced points like this, once understood on both sides of the aisle, that elude the understanding of our nation’s lesser lights.

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