In response to my call for American leadership in Egypt and the Middle East, Jim Antle has asked for specifics. What, exactly, do I propose that the United States do?
I have recommended a $2.5-billion aid package to Egyptian civil society elements to help jumpstart liberal democratic institution building in Egypt.
The United States, after all, is one of the world’s oldest and most successful democracies. As such, we have developed tremendous technical expertise in running and administering free and fair elections. We should share this expertise with the Egyptian government and with Egyptian civil society elements.
More than that, we should actively assist liberal democratic parties and factions within Egypt, so that they can effectively compete electorally and win the battle of ideas.
These are all things that the United States already does through agencies such as the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute, and the National Republican Institute. So the organizational infrastructure required for us to help the Egyptian people politically is already in place.
Thankfully, according to the New York Times, “the White House and the State Department [are] already discussing setting aside new funds to bolster the rise of secular political parties.”
Economically, the Wall Street Journal recommends “a free trade agreement and open access to U.S. and EU markets for [Egyptian] goods as democracy advances.”
Greater and freer trade with Egypt makes sense. It will create new economic opportunities for Egyptians and new paths for economic advancement, while exposing them to outside, Western influences.
This is tremendously important because economic deprivation and a serious lack of economic opportunity were major causal factors behind the revolution.
It’s also important that the Egyptian people not associate democracy with economic misery and economic failure as happened in Weimar Germany. Thus, the United States and the international community ought to progressively integrate the Egyptian economy into the larger-scale world economy as a reward for democratization.
The point is help Egypt move in a liberal democratic direction. It is to tilt the scales there in favor of liberal democracy, so that Egypt’s noble revolution does not fail or get hijacked by the Islamists and the extremists.
A liberal democratic Egypt is best for Egypt, and it is best for the United States. And so we must pursue it — now.
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