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The below is from a dear friend in Egypt who has proven time and again that he is a friend not only to me but to all of the USA.  He is very wise, and like the previous post is living with the upheaval.  Please take heed in what he says, his message is very important.  (picture at left is taken in Egypt, but does not include the author of this missive)
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US- Egyptian relation more engagement needed 

  
 The modern phase of the  relationship between the U.S and Egypt – dating back to the seventies – has been  mutually strategic for nearly four decades due to several crucial geopolitical factors. Primary amongst these is the fact that President Sadat recognized and  acted upon the Unites States of America’s pivotal role in shaping and impacting global geopolitics, in addition to the indirect influence it exerts through economy, culture and global media reach. Similarly, Egypt plays the same role within the Middle East region and the Islamic world, and has always been regarded as the regional leader owing in large part to its history, culture, political maturity and stabilizing role.

The pillars of the bilateral US-Egyptian relationship was born with the signing of the Camp David Accords, which then combined with a safe open passage through the Suez Canal. The US government then began an economic assistance program which was linked directly to the accord and a military aid program which was independent from the accord. 

These, in tandem with U.S-Egyptian military cooperation, and both countries’
shared stance on the war against terror, cemented and formed the relationship.

In recent years, however, there appears to have been a  constant temperature change in US-Egyptian bilateral relations, despite both
parties following through on their commitments. Declining economic US aid, along with a set fixed annual military aid package to Egypt – which has totaled a combined sum of over US$60 billion over the past three decades – has seen Egypt make sweeping economic reforms that has drawn it firmly into the emerging markets towards the end of 2008. 

In the post 9/11 world, successive U.S administrations have adopted a strategic policy that revolves around encouraging the growth of democracy in the Middle East, with the objective of encouraging freedom and political participation to counteract the growth of dormant terrorist cells that have thrived as a result of the seemingly oppressive policies of several of the former dictatorships in the region. These dormant cells have consolidated their grievances into a collective hatred of “the West” whom they regard as an eternal colonial enemy or an obstacle to a way of life they consider sacred.

Widespread poverty, illiteracy and denial of political participation in many parts of the Middle East have added to this hatred, forming a potent mix of politics and religion that has bred radicalism and extremism. It was this reaction that lead the US to adapt their policies to focus on a more inclusive democracy and a stronger recognition of human  rights.

Although the adaptation of US strategies was commendable and forward thinking, it had one major flaw, and that was in trying to apply the theory of "one size fits all" democracy, which may be applicable in more developed countries, like Turkey for example, which has had over 80 years of secular rule and a population that is more European in inclination than countries in the Middle East. But in Egypt – where illiteracy and poverty are rife – a different approach for a lasting democracy was needed. A model that,
whilst still inclusive, would not allow certain segments of the society –
notably the religious groups – to manipulate the huge obstacles of poverty and illiteracy to suit their agendas.

The "one size fits all" approach, which concentrated solely on the ballot box, allowed well-funded religious parties to steer large groups of the underprivileged, uneducated masses in the ultimately fascist direction they wanted to go, with false promises of a better future and a more pious and therefore ‘better’ way of life.  The results proved catastrophic, and were as far removed from democracy as can be.  The Egyptian strategy needed to remain focused on gradual progress verses sudden change, combined with incremental political mobilization, and the consequent creation of a political way forward.  Unfortunately, the steps were much too slow and too little in the eyes of some.

In last 10 years precisely, between 2003-2013, Egypt has witnessed a step-change in political mobilization, with its first phase prior to 2011 where movements were formed, weak parties were established, and the media began to become a fourth line of power.  
  
The second phase was from 2011-2013, when Egypt saw a wave of over 75 parties formed, with complicated names and doctrines. Society became politically vibrant, especially with the engagement of the media in all its forms. This mobilization reached a pinnacle with the June 30th demonstrations that witnessed  over 30 million Egyptians taking to the streets to put their views forward. 
 
Regardless of what view you take, pro or against, with all those different dates and events, something fundamental has changed in Egypt - namely
the growth of political awareness, which became a regular part of Egyptians’
lives, and the conviction that elections and the implementation of democratic rule are the only way to lead Egypt forward. 

Today, accountability, delivering on fighting corruption, and inclusiveness, are all tools which are crucial for a government’s survival. This is surely hopeful for tomorrow; but it is challenging for today. A national reconciliation is paramount to Egypt’s stability and move towards the future – but it needs to happen which fits with Egypt's own understanding of the right and inclusive way forward.

The key focus to maintain a healthy US-Egyptian relationship, whilst simultaneously growing democracy in Egypt, are:

A new course of action needs to be  applied –  primarily, the compartmentalization of the three different pillars of  the bilateral relationship – the political, economic well being - as the creation of a fourth pillar – that of democratic reform.  If each is  handled separately, there is a greater chance of success within a shorter time frame, which will work to the benefit of both parties.

At the same time, Egypt must write its own narrative in terms of the kind of democracy that can grow here and the approach that needs to be taken towards the hugely important issue of human rights.  The basis of this narrative would be a separation of politics from religion, which would allow political parties to thrive, but it would eliminate religion being used as a tool on a largely uneducated public. As we have seen consistently throughout history, religion and politics do not blend well and have often been the cause of a nation’s downfall.

This strategy of separation of church and state, along with an overhaul of the educational system in Egypt, to which US input and guidance is pivotal, can usher in a new era of democracy in Egypt – one that will fulfill the political aspirations of its people and will simultaneously strengthen US-Egyptian bilateral relations and restore them to higher glory.
 
In conclusion, here is some food for thought:

  1. We should be aiming for a more balanced, independent relationship based on the fulfillment of mutual exchange of interests.

  2. Increased independence from US economic assistance would help Egypt build a more liberated vibrant economy, through increased local economic growth (SME) and foreign investment.

  3. There is a need to respect and support Egypt’s requirement to create their own models of democratic reform.

  4. There is an urgent need for investment in education in Egypt, in order
  to create the potential for a better tomorrow.

  5. A strong Egypt  will lead to a better Middle East and Islamic world, and a safer world for all of us.

In summary:
 
we need to connect not split, we need to communicate  as opposed to having separate strategies. We need engagement, not blame or punishment. Sanctions never worked. Engagement always does.


 

 


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    Mary Jean Eisenhower is the Principal of MJ Eisenhower & Associates