Sheer stupidity

A soldier stands in front of a mural depicting Egypt's former President Hosni Mubarak (R), former Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi (C) and Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi drawn on the wall of the presidential palace in Cairo December 12, 2012. Egypt's liberal and secular opposition said on Wednesday it would back a "no" vote in a referendum on a divisive new constitution promoted by Islamist President Mursi, calling off a boycott as long as safeguards are in place for a fair vote. REUTERS

Egypt is a ship without a captain, sailing in uncharted waters. None of its supposed leaders seem to have a road map or a plan for the direction the country is taking.

The symptoms of this are apparent. There is the president who awards himself extra powers, then takes them away, and backtracks on tax policy. There’s the army which wades into politics, scheduling talks between the government and the opposition, only to postpone.

A clear plan eludes even the opposition, which flits between positions on the upcoming referendum and lacks a clear leader.

This lack of direction will take its toll on the country, both politically and in terms of unity, but also economically and socially.

While the Egyptians can look internally for the current source of their problems, the West, and the United States in particular, bear very serious responsibility for the current state of affairs. In their calls for democracy they have, for no apparent reason, given unquestioning support to the Muslim Brotherhood and to Mohammad Mursi’s decision-making,

Yet on close inspection many of the articles of Egypt’s new constitution directly conflict with much that the United States has publicly stated to believe in regards to human rights and democracy.

The current state of affairs not only hinders progress in Egypt, but actually sets the country back in the realms of equality and rights.

This apparent disconnect in the U.S.’ foreign policy and its stated values is, of course, nothing new.

It created Al-Qaeda, strengthened the Taliban and the current insurgency in Iraq. This highlights just a few ways in which the U.S. has managed to create or foster anti-U.S. sentiment around the world through its policies.

Either U.S. policymakers are masochists or they are demonstrating sheer short-sighted stupidity in their approach to international politics, in which case whoever is responsible should be held to account.

To put on blinkers and act as if nothing is wrong merely adds to the turmoil and tensions, which affects not only Egypt but also the rest of this part of the world.

Egypt cannot carry on unmanned for much longer before it drifts into a storm. Its own leaders, whether in the government or the opposition, must realize this, and must put the good of the country before their own personal political ambitions.

But the U.S. must also realize this, and recognize its missteps in Egypt as part of a much bigger picture. If it hopes to help this part of the world move forward, it must revisit its policies with the good of the people in mind, and not its own marginal interests.

It might then see that its interests conflict with some of its founding principles. The U.S. should decide what it truly wants for this part of the world. At least then, this region’s people might be spared its hypocrisy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 13, 2012, on page 7.




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