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The Pakistan Parallel

Alliances with military strongmen eventually ­backfire.

Feb 21, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 22 • By DANIEL TWINING
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Even so, the uprising in Egypt unites a broad spectrum of the population, from conservative Islamists to middle-class doctors and lawyers to Google executives to students of the Facebook generation. Fears of an Islamist “one man, one vote, one time” takeover seem overblown. What of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose strength derives in part from its opposition to Mubarak’s rule and from the state’s persecution of its mainstream political opponents? “Let them have a political party just like everyone else​—​they will not win more than 10 percent,” one Coptic Christian told the New York Times.

The long-term lessons are clear. America’s enduring strategic interests would be better served by siding with the Egyptian masses who seek freedom and dignity than with an unaccountable establishment.

The United States should use its considerable leverage in Egypt, the second-largest recipient of American assistance, to push for rapid elections under a caretaker government. America should also rebalance its massive military assistance towards civilian aid on the understanding that strengthening civic institutions and economic opportunity are national security imperatives. The strategic objective must be to form a true alliance with the Egyptian public rather than with a small coterie of their rulers. The same is true in Pakistan.

As a result of our pursuing a top-down approach for far too long, America’s approval rating in Pakistan stands at roughly 18 percent. A majority of Pakistanis views the United States as the country’s leading adversary​—​notwithstanding billions upon billions of dollars in U.S. assistance and a 57-year-old strategic alliance. Pakistan is an example of how not to pursue a policy that mistakes a false “stability” for a genuine partnership truer to our interests and values.

Daniel Twining is senior fellow for Asia at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. He previously served as a member of the State Department’s policy planning staff and as foreign policy adviser to Senator John McCain. These are his personal views.

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