Amid the ongoing upheaval in Egypt, Clifford Bob discusses the U.S. Government perspective on Egypt’s future and the possibly—or, rather, probably—significant role to be played by religious associations and political parties in the event of a post-Mubarak transition:
The U.S. has had a difficult time accepting the possibility that “Islamist” or even radical governments might actually be put in office by free and fair elections–by thinking people who see no better alternative in their societies. U.S. opposition to the duly elected, Hamas government in the Palestinian Authority in 2006 is an obvious case in point. But it is not necessarily the case that Islamist governments are so hostile to democratic values that after winning election they would destroy democracy. Nor is it the case that, faced with the reality of governance, they would be unwilling to compromise. Leaving aside the irony of such views when the U.S. has long supported our own set of Arab autocrats like Mubarak, experience in other parts of the world suggests that governments influenced or run by Islamically influenced political parties are not necessarily hostile to democracy and can be pragmatic. Turkey is an obvious case in point.
Overall, the fact that soon we may no longer have pliable, autocratic clients in Egypt, Tunisia, and possibly other North African and Middle Eastern countries is, on balance, a good thing notwithstanding risks of short-term violence. First, a more autonomous Egypt–or even simply a more unstable one–could exert greater pressure on Israel, expressly or tacitly, to reach a settlement with the Palestinians. Added to American presidents’ ineffective “good cop” pressure on Israel will be another neighborhood “bad cop” that might help change the calculus of negotiation even among the Israeli right. It is of course unclear how that might play itself out. But a more democratic or more Islamically-influenced government will not necessarily mean war in the Middle East—and might even add pressure on Israel that would help promote peace.
Read the entire post at The Duck of Minerva.