Egypt’s path to a better future

Our main message in Cairo was simple and straightforward: Democracy is the only viable path to lasting stability, national reconciliation, sustainable economic growth and the return of investment and tourism in Egypt. And democracy means more than elections. It means democratic governance: an inclusive political process in which all Egyptians are free and able to participate, so long as they do so nonviolently; the protection of basic human rights through the rule of law and the constitution; and a state that defends and fosters a vibrant civil society.

This is the kind of democratic future that we believe most Egyptians want. But the danger now is that extremist and reactionary forces, some in the Egyptian state and some among Morsi’s supporters in the streets, want to drag the country down a dark path of violence, oppression and revenge. This is doomed to failure for both sides; it would make all of Egypt’s problems infinitely worse and ultimately threaten the national security interests of the United States and our allies.

Indeed, it is worth remembering — especially when the American mind has refocused on the real and persistent threat posed by al-Qaeda — that its leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is a former member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood who was radicalized during the violent crackdowns and detentions of Brotherhood leaders by previous Egyptian regimes. Repeating the worst mistakes of the past now will only condemn Egypt to a future of protracted instability and stagnation, while creating a new generation of radical recruits for terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda.