US Involvement in Egypt Must Be Wiser

Sunday, 27 Nov 2011 11:23 AM

By Tawfik Hamid

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The United States’ increasing pressure on Friday on Egypt's military rulers to hand over power to civilian leaders may result in more instability to the country and ultimately to the entire Middle East.

When President Barack Obama asked Mubarak to step down on Feb. 24, it was an appropriate step at that time, as Mubarak was already collapsing since the vast majority of Egyptians were against him and the military was displeased that Mubarak’s son Gamal became the president after his father. The intervention in this case was appropriate, as the collapse of the former president was inevitable and many Egyptians perceived this step from the United States in a positive way.

The statement of President Obama commending the Egyptian youth has been quoted along the walls of the Cairo airport, being one of the first things visitors have seen upon their arrival into Egypt after the revolution. Unfortunately, repeating the same chess move in a different game may end in failure as the circumstances are usually different. Asking the military in Egypt to hand over power to civilian leaders now can be disastrous as the situation is entirely different from the situation involving Mubarak.

Unlike the case on Jan. 25 revolution where most Egyptians were against Mubarak, a significant portion of the Egyptians today, although unhappy with its performance, are against removing the military completely from power. So unlike the revolution, when Mubarak was asked to step down from power, asking the military to relinquish power now will be detrimental to a significant portion of the society who see the military as a safety net for the country, especially in disasters.

Furthermore, the military leaders who took power during the Jan. 25 revolution are not anti-American and are likely to preserve the U.S. interests in the area.

In today's situation, those who are likely to take power via democracy are typically anti-American groups. Supporting the removal of Mubarak was not arousing an anti-American regimen, while removing the military completely from power is likely to bring an anti-American system and put U.S. interests at risk.

Any attempt to shift all the power from the military to the civilians is likely to end in a struggle for power between both groups. This is likely to result in bloody confrontations and may end any hope for some form of democracy to exist within Egypt. A more reasonable approach would be that the military share power with civilians in a way that does not damage the US interests in the region.

Statements the United States releases about the issue need to be more neutral and must not show bias toward any specific group.

On one hand, overtly supporting the military will be perceived as the United States’ being against the will of people. On the other hand, supporting the people against the military not only will make the United States lose one of its allies in the region but also will be perceived in an unconstructive manner by many Egyptians.

For example, several political experts and show hosts on mainstream Egyptian television see the United States’ supporting the people against the military as "an evil attempt by Americans" to bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power via democratic process and thus start dividing the country. This view is also what many Egyptians perceive and believe.

Being neutral and issuing statements that encourage only peaceful resolutions of the situation was a wiser approach in the current situation.

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