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John McCain on Egypt

10:28 AM, Feb 8, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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At the Munich Security Conference, Arizona senator John McCain delivered remarks on the protests in Egypt. “I believe the events in Egypt and elsewhere call for a new look at our approach to undemocratic governments everywhere, especially in the broader Middle East,” McCain said, clearly suggesting that the Obama administration should reconsider its policies. “Make no mistake, what is happening in Egypt is nothing short of a revolution, and it should put other undemocratic governments on notice that their presumed stability is a false stability.”

McCain also alluded to forming an assembly of democracies, an idea he has long advocated: “In the months ahead, the transatlantic democracies should unite around the idea of a new compact with our undemocratic partners: As they take concrete steps to advance down the hard path of political, economic, and social reforms, we will be with them every step of the way, offering whatever incentives we can – from technical assistance, to greater market access, to further security cooperation – that can support their transition over time to freer and more representative systems of government.”

Here are McCain’s full remarks:

It is always a profound pleasure to be back in Munich. And I am honored to have the opportunity to address this conference this year, and to do so sharing the stage with the distinguished Foreign Minister of Russia. We are old friends. 

We have been asked to speak about Euro-Atlantic security in a post-nuclear era. Now, I think it may still be some time before such an era is upon us, so let me express a more immediate hope – that as we seek to rid the world of nuclear weapons, as my hero Ronald Reagan dreamed, we will also work to rid it of other security threats that still plague the Euro-Atlantic world: among them, the lack of agreement between Russia and NATO over our conventional forces in Europe; the great disparity in tactical nuclear weapons between the United States and Russia; the fundamental contradiction between the U.S. and Russian positions on missile defense, especially in the context of the New START Treaty; and of course, the illegal occupation of internationally recognized sovereign territory of Georgia. 

I trust we will cover most of these issues through your questions, and I fear I would be remiss for not taking this opportunity to address the historic events unfolding in Egypt, and increasingly across the Middle East as well. This crisis is ongoing, and its repercussions remain unclear, but it is not too soon to begin a debate about what the events in Egypt mean for our foreign policies. Indeed, this debate is essential.

Like most of you, I am a servant of my nation – a nation that has pressing material interests in the Middle East, and it benefits no one to pretend that they always align perfectly with our moral interests and aspirations for countries of the region. As such, it is with some trepidation that we watch the destabilization and potential displacement of a long-standing partner like President Mubarak – an undemocratic partner to be sure, but a partner nonetheless, who has cooperated to fight terrorism, secure lanes of commerce, uphold peace with Israel, and maintain regional order.

And yet, the events of the past two weeks must be a wake-up call for the nations of the free world. In every region, we have come to understand that the greatest guarantor of lasting stability, and the surest safeguard of our national interests, is democracy: governments that are responsive and responsible to their people, and respectful of their inherent dignity and human rights. Europe’s history contains a universal lesson in this regard: as nations here have consolidated democratic practices and institutions, it has deepened the peace and security of the continent. It has furthered your success as well as ours. But when it comes to the Middle East, we have cooperated with undemocratic leaders, as our short-term interests require, but we have not consistently challenged those leaders to take concrete steps toward a more democratic future, as our long-term interests demand. In the prescient words of Condoleezza Rice, speaking six years ago in Cairo, we have “pursued stability at the expense of democracy in the Middle East, and we achieved neither.”

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