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America (And The West) Should Back Islamists In Egypt–Cover Of The Economist Powerful Image

June 22, 2012

There is no way to address the deep crisis in Egypt except with hard-nosed realism.  All of the sputtering and racism has to be put aside from those who have no regard for the ‘Arab Street’ or the ‘Arab Srping’. 

This blog has been a strong proponent of the changes in the Middle East over the past two years, and remains so.  Those who know nothing of Egypt need to stay silent.  Let the educated leaders in the West help lead the way, along with those who are seeking redress in Egypt to the hardships they have endured at the hands of despots and dictators.

The deeds of the generals in Egypt needs to be condemned, and the West needs to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those who want democratic institutions to flower.

Let us cut to the bone of the matter.

Egypt is not, however, doomed to return to dictatorship. Turkey, where the army has reached an accommodation with moderate Islamists, points to a peaceful way out. And the West can help by making it clear that democratically elected politicians, even Islamist ones, rank above generals.

There are two canards that politicians in the West use as an excuse for ignoring the Arab spring. The first is that there is little to choose between the generals and the Islamists. This is just Mubarakism revisited. This newspaper did not want the Islamists to trounce the secular reformers, but they did. The best way to tame the Islamists, as Turkey’s experience shows, is to deny them the moral high ground to which repression elevates them, and condemn them instead to the responsibilities and compromises of day-to-day government.

The second argument is that Egypt is too complex for the West to influence. The situation is certainly messy; but messages from the outside can be clear and strong. Frequent insistence that the army sticks to its democratic promises could make a difference. The generals thrive on American aid and are plainly nervous about seizing untrammelled power. By pressing them to negotiate with Mr Morsi over a constitution to provide for a new parliament, the United States and Europe could tip the balance in democracy’s favour.

In Egypt’s confusion, one thing stands out: Egyptians, and Arabs elsewhere, want to run their own affairs. Kings or generals may slow progress to that end, but they cannot stop it.

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