The civil unrest in Egypt has sent U.S. officials scrambling to explain our democracy promotion efforts in the Middle East. Under scrutiny is the policy of massive military and economic aid to brutal dictators, while at the same time claiming to advocate for political and economic reform.
President Obama, in his State of the Union address subtlety expressed support for democratic efforts in Egypt, saying “Tonight, let us be clear: The United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people." Hilary Clinton especially, being in charge of the State Department, has been making speeches expressing support for reform in the region. The United States, she said, “have consistently raised with the Egyptian government, over many years, as well as other governments in the region, the need for reform and greater openness and participation in order to provide a better life, a better future, for the people.”
But actions speak louder than words. And when we don’t put any teeth behind these words it makes our efforts seem half-hearted and meaningless. Dictator Hosni Mubarak has been the recipient of billions of billions of military and economic aid, and that gives the US a lot of leverage over the Egyptian President. Simply asking a dictator to enforce political reforms that would essentially bring about his demise, and expecting change is just plain dumb. We owe it to ourselves, as a country founded on the idea of democracy and liberty, and to Egyptians to spend that money wisely and put conditions on aid. Without using our leverage, and possibly adding some sticks into the equation if we don’t see reform, saying that we support Egypt is a totally empty statement. If Obama is serious when he says he’ll stand with democratic movements, he should put his money where is mouth is.
History is in the making in the Middle East, and we should be sure we’re on the right side of it.