Issandr El Amrani writes: I’d like to touch upon America and Egypt, because I’ve seen a lot of hand-wringing in American newspapers about the future of that relationship and a sense of misplaced buyers’ remorse about the Egyptian revolution – misplaced because the US had little to do with the revolution, and because it is wrong-headed thinking about an unstoppable, irreversible event.
Generally speaking, the American foreign policy establishment is stuck on Egypt. It is having a hard time imagining a different Middle East. Its path of least resistance is banking on their financial and political relationship with the generals now in charge and maintaining the ability to project power in the region that it has had since 1945 to some extent and since 1990 in particular. If it continues on this path, which is unfortunately likely, because of the dearth of imagination in a foreign policy elite that has grown lazy in its imperial thinking, and because of the dire state of American politics, it will fail.
The most important thing you can do about Egypt right now is be patient and not try to force things or maintain a system that Egyptians clearly want to change. This is what worries me the most: that the US will choose to encourage the perpetuation of military rule in Egypt, as people like Jon Alterman have already subtly advocated and many others in Washington are discreetly but more vigorously doing in games of “armchair generals”. They are the Status Quo Lobby.
America is a country that has grown complacent in its assumptions about the Middle East and its politics, and too wedded to the idea of having an imperial role in the region (of which CENTCOM is the embodiment) and the world more generally. For several years I have advocated an American withdrawal from the Arab world. The Arab uprisings have made this all the more urgent, although it is a delicate, difficult, and potentially dangerous matter. But that’s a debate for another day.
Let me focus now on a few pieces by people who have written very unwise things, and who are the other bigpart of the problem with American foreign policy in the region: those who primarily see US Middle East policy through the lens of Israel.
Robert Satloff, a leading hack of the Israel lobby think tank WINEP, and Eric Trager have a piece in the WSJ you can read here. A few years ago Satloff was all into pressuring Egypt on democracy issues, but now has buyer’s remorse – confirming my long-held suspicion that people like him and Elliott Abrams (and many others) were only tactically interested in democracy promotion as a manner to wield greater influence over the Mubarak regime. Now that Islamists have won a majority in Egypt’s parliament, they are shitting their proverbial pants.