After Morsi’s ouster, a second chance for Obama in Egypt
The administration may have talked the talk of economic reform, but U.S. emissaries went to Cairo with checks, as though the money would keep flowing no matter how ill-conceived the Brotherhood’s populist economic policies. The administration pronounced on civil rights and tolerance, but it did nothing when journalists, activists and ordinary citizens were jailed for blaspheming Islam or insulting the president. And there can be no greater riposte to the American retreat in support of civil society, reflected in our spinelessness in the face of the prosecution of U.S. pro-democracy activists, than the millions of Egyptians who have filled streets in recent days to take back their country…
But with the army back in the saddle, it would also be criminal for the administration to repeat the errors of the last episode of military rule, when everything was sacrificed on the altar of stability. Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, the new white knight, is no more a democrat than Tantawi, though he may be more adept. Washington needs to be more adept, too.
Obama has frequently said that the United States rejects the false choice between democracy or stability; nowhere is this more apropos than Egypt. In the post-Morsi world, Washington should articulate a policy in which our support for Egypt is conditioned not just on Egypt’s peace with Israel but also on continual movement toward building a democratic, pluralistic government that pursues sound economic policies. In practice, that means engaging broadly with Egypt’s political spectrum, not just the ruling party; offering vocal defense of minorities (Christians, Bahai’s, Shiites); reinvesting in civil society programs that help Egyptians translate their street activism into political organization; and leading a disciplined “friends of Egypt” grouping that promises substantial financial assistance but only to cushion the impact of overdue cuts in bloated subsidies.