Two years after Egypt's revolution, U.S. diplomacy comes full circle
Long after the moving images of Egypt’s Facebook-addicted, pro-democratic revolutionaries faded from Tahrir Square, they have remained firmly implanted in the minds of American observers 6,000 miles away. For much of the two years since Egypt’s uprising, many observers in Washington seemingly believed that anything in Cairo that wasn’t Mubarak was a step in a democratic direction.
After weeks of political intrigue and street violence, Egyptians will vote this weekend on a controversial new constitution. TNR asked two analysts with differing perspectives on events in the region, Nathan Brown and Eric Trager, to weigh in on the immediate and long-term future of the world's most influential Arab country. TNR: What exactly is in the newly drafted Constitution? Does it really privilege Islamists? Nathan Brown: Most of the complaints in Egypt about the document are about process—who wrote it and how—and far less about content.
CAIRO, Egypt—In the stultifying, 100-plus-degree heat of Tahrir Square on Sunday, where tens of thousands gathered to hear the results of Egypt’s first relatively free presidential election, the sweaty, and occasionally fainting, masses were morbidly grim. Many in the Islamist-dominant crowd were convinced that Egypt’s military junta would anoint former prime minister Ahmed Shafik the next president, and they anticipated deadly confrontation with security forces immediately thereafter.
Egyptian presidential candidate Abdel Monem Abouel Fotouh was a leading force in the militant Islamist student movements of the 1970s; one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s point men for aiding the mujahideen in Afghanistan during the 1980s; and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Office for twenty-two years.
Forgive the corny metaphors. But it was not I who framed developments in the Arab world with the sequence of the seasons. Still, you need only glance at the papers to recognize that Arab Spring is now Arab Winter without really ever having passed through summer or fall. Spring is, as ever, a romantic memory. As I write, Reuters reports from the Cairo morgue that 33 to 46 protestors were killed by the police since Saturday—and that nearly 1,300 were wounded and maimed.
The 9/11 attacks catalyzed a tremendous shift in American foreign policy in the Middle East. Rather than prioritizing petrol, Washington targeted terrorist organizations, dethroned a dictator, and lobbied throughout the region for liberalization. Yet despite the billions of dollars spent policing Baghdad and protecting Benghazi, the unpopularity of the United States in the Arab world continues to be fueled by the belief that Islamist terrorists had nothing to do with 9/11, with many claiming the attacks were an American, Israeli, or joint American-Israeli conspiracy.
On June 21, 2007, Mitt Romney delivered a speech at the annual summer retreat of the American Enterprise Institute in Beaver Creek, Colorado. To coincide with the address, his campaign released a statement explaining the candidate’s vision for fighting the war on terrorism.
I. “The standard left-wing person never seems more comfortable than when attacking Israel.” This is the novelist Martin Amis talking to Ha’aretz when he was in Israel this past fall.“Everyone else is protected,” Amis continued, “by having dark skin or colonial history or something. But you can attack Israel.” Freely! Of course, it’s not only the standard left-wing person who is so empowered, but also those who belong to mainstream Protestant churches associated with the National Council of Churches on Riverside Drive in Manhattan.