I had resisted writing about the uprising in Egypt until now. Mubarak. Should he step down now? Press Secretary Gibbs said now means yesterday. The Obama administration is clearly walking on thin ice on this one. And this has all happened just when Obama seemed to be hitting his stride. The economy is showing better numbers – unemployment is down from 9.4 to 9.0. Corporate profits are up; the Down Jones Industrial Index hovers above 12,000 today. Obama’s Arizona speech and his State of the Union address helped restore calm and confidence among Americans. Even the party of no had good words to say about the president. But with Egypt, no matter what stance the administration takes, there is going to be bickering. What to do?
Egypt must determine its own fate. America’s role should be advisory only. If Mubarak refuses to step down until September, despite advise to the contrary, there is not much America can do. Mubarak will ultimately bow to the pressure of the people. Failing to do so may mean his arrest, imprisonment or worse. Mubarak may be a strong man, but he is not stupid and is quite capable of reading the writing on the wall.
After initially supporting Obama’s handling of the uprising, politicians are beginning to voice opinions. Some say we must support Mubarak, others say we must insist on his swift removal. There is talk of the Muslim Brotherhood taking over and installing Islamic rule in Eqypt like that found in Iran, which might pose a threat to Israel and the U.S. Others fear a scenario in which power is handed over to a Mubarak like figure that would ultimately result in little change.
In the end, Egypt must decide its own course. It should not be decided by the mob. To preserve stability in the region, there must be an orderly process toward a new democratic structure of government. And yet democracy is not something that can happen in a day. If Mubarak is run out of town today, then what? These are questions that most Egyptians on the street, at least those who have been interviewed, have not yet answered. Their stance has been simply: “Mubarak out!”
So what is the role of the U.S.? Egypt has been an ally of the U.S. for years. It has had peaceful relations with Israel since 1979, and as a result of the peace treaty has been the recipient of yearly U.S. aid, as has Israel. The delicate peace between the countries could be broken as a result of the democratization of Egypt. In a democracy, the people decide. If America and Israel believe in democracy, they must be willing to support the messy process and the outcome, even if this results in the Muslim Brotherhood coming to power. The U.S. should not intervene significantly except as requested by Egyptians, and then only in an advisory capacity. The U.N. could step in as well as peacekeepers were it necessary to ensure a calm and ordered process of change. Continued aid could be conditioned upon a commitment to human rights and non-violent behavior.