America chooses the wrong allies in Egypt

Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet refusenik and Israeli politician who now heads the Jewish Agency for Israel, has been arguing for a decade that the West, led by the United States, should base its policies involving Egypt and the rest of the Middle East on alliance with such democratic dissidents. When I saw him last week, he was despairing about the disastrous results of Obama’s decision to embrace first Mubarak, then Morsi and now Sissi.

“Today in Egypt people believe that America is on the side of freedom even less than they did in the time of Mubarak,” Sharansky said. “Such a huge change happened in Egypt, and yet Washington remains the same. Whoever takes power is supported — and with each cycle, there is more instability and America is less supported by the Egyptian people.”

Why not make it a U.S. priority to free Maher, Adel, Douma and Abdel Fattah and to help them and people like them organize a genuinely democratic mass movement? That used to be dismissed as unrealistic; Egyptians supposedly weren’t interested in democracy. But 2011 disproved that canard. That the country is reverting to authoritarianism shows only that the old order and the Islamists were better organized to seize power after the revolution. Shouldn’t the United States aim to correct that?