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Exodus from Dictatorship

Why is Washington such a sucker for Mubarak?

May 31, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 35 • By ELLEN BORK
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Egyptians regard the United States with a mixture of resentment, confusion, and hope. They are surprised at American credulousness about Mubarak. Most people I spoke to believe that the trade-off Mubarak peddles, between authoritarian control and Islamist rule, is bogus. They think that the threat of Islamist radicals’ winning a free election is overstated, and that granting Egyptians political rights would neutralize the threat further. They ask what the Egyptian government is doing to forestall the appeal of such movements and why the United States is so hypocritical about democracy in Egypt.

In a bare party headquarters a few hours outside Cairo, I found myself trying to explain the way America acts to a polite but frustrated group of mainly small businessmen. I told them that in the past, Washington has sometimes used its influence to help bring about democratic transitions, withdrawing its support from dictators like Chun Doo Hwan in South Korea and Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. Later I realized that Churchill had said it better: Washington always does the right thing, after it’s exhausted all the alternatives. 

Ellen Bork is director of democracy and human rights at the Foreign Policy Initiative.

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