Monday, July 15, 2013

Egypt.. Defying Conventional Political Science?

Should the U.S. halt its military aid to Egypt or not is a hot debate consuming western and Arab pundits as if their lives depended on it. Some groups’ anger and bewilderment at the United States for not declaring the June 30th to July 3d unseating of President Morsi a “coup” are obvious. They are filling media pages and airwaves to make their point, but nothing is changing, which makes them only angrier and more vocal.

In a tragic way, they mirror Morsi supporters who won’t give up until their leader is reinstated. They too seem to be stuck in their way, unable to think of something new to discuss or debate. Since they will accept nothing other than their views, they turn to the aid as the only reason for not calling the coup a coup; and they demand with all their might and authority (read lack of) that the U.S. stop aid to Egypt immediately. Their lack of pragmatism and inability to offer ideas beyond cutting the aid is blinding them and those who listen to them.

Many U.S. citizens wish their country would stop using their tax dollars to send aid not just to Egypt, but to Israel as well, to see how each country will fare on its own without that aid. I’m pretty sure Egypt will survive just fine without the aid but I’m not so sure about Israel.

The U.S. gives Israel $3.4 billion in defense aid every year. This leaves room for the money to be spent in open-ended different ways. In the same token, Egypt receives $1.3 billion in U.S. aid in return for maintaining peace with Israel and allowing U.S. military priority access to the Suez Canal and Egyptian airspace. How does the specifically framed aid change whether a democratically elected president was removed from office by popular demand? Did the military install its own representative as caretaker or interim president? No. Nor did they turn the country into a military dictatorship and started running it as an autocracy! Plus, they did not threaten to cancel the peace treaty with Israel; nor did they forbid U.S. access to the Suez or airspace. Instead, they called for an amended constitution, a parliament and elections under an interim president and cabinet. From the U.S. point of view the aid is still kosher or halal!

The U.S. now has a much more important role to play than the aid game. It is time to hold every one responsible for their actions, including the Muslim Brotherhood, the liberals, the conservatives, the youth and every Egyptian that wants to be part of the nation building in Egypt.

I heard a prominent analyst complain that Egyptian “liberals are crazy to think they can re-write political science!” Many of us studied political “science” in schools and universities. We studied history and journalism too. What we’ve been witnessing in the past twenty some years is a revolution on everything we know and we were made to believe.

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the fall of communism were unfathomable thoughts at one point in history and political science books could have never predicted that Georgia, Armenia, Lithuania and Uzbekistan will ever be independent nations. Did any political science book project the end of the Soviet Union or the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia into independent nations? If we believed only what political science books told us, Czechoslovakia would still be a communist dictatorship and East Timor would have never been born.

The Arab Spring has arrived late and as a surprise no doubt and it is still an embryo trying to survive. If the “experts” would just let it happen instead of protect their turf and old beliefs.

Democracy will not happen overnight; nor should it. If Egyptians and other Arabs don’t go through the labor pains and later the growing pains of their democracy, they will never cherish it and protect it. People will make mistakes and they will pay for those mistakes. The challenge is not to accept defeat and move on. The biggest challenge is to learn from the defeat and not give up. Can we just dream that this is how nations are built? Maybe one day this also will become a reality!


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