This commentary was published by Asharq al-Awsat on 06/02/2011
After both the Jordanian King and the Yemeni President announced steps towards reform in their respective countries, the U.S. President rushed to congratulate the two leaders. Why did Obama do that? Did he play a role in what happened?
Of course Washington did not play a role in what happened. It is true that the Americans have a stake in the stability of the region, including Egypt, and this is for matters relating to both peace and war. However, it is also true that the U.S. Administration wants to endorse what happened in Tunisia and Egypt, and the reformative measures in Jordan and Yemen, to add to its list of foreign policy achievements. This would gain further internal American support for Obama, and show he has been able to spread democracy in our region [Middle East] more effectively than the Bush Administration. Yet [when America takes credit for such events], this is not the reality. For example, what happened in Tunisia was not initiated by the Americans, and they did not expect such results. When the U.S. Secretary of State was speaking during the Tunisian protests, before Ben Ali was ousted, she said she was waiting for the crisis to end, in order to continue talks with the Tunisian President!
What Americans do not want to understand, or believe, is that those who launched the reformative movement in Egypt are the sons of Egypt themselves, rather than the “Founding Fathers” - an expression used in America to describe the generation who founded the American state, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and so on. In fact, those who came to lead the reformative movement in Egypt are the “Founding Sons”, i.e. Egypt’s youth, the ones that if an Egyptian politician was asked about before the evening of the 24th of January, they responded in a sarcastic tone, saying “the kids have grown up”, citing the name of a famous Egyptian comedy play.
It is true that Egypt’s kids grew up, yet they became the Founding Children. As for America’s experiments in our region, with its “Founding Fathers”, they remain at a standstill, whether in Iraq or Afghanistan. Washington is still heavily involved in Afghanistan today, and carries out superficial activities in Iraq from time to time. Meanwhile, if the rational Egyptians are successful in disposing of their government, we will see a significant transformation in the future of Egypt, and the region, at the hands of the Founding Children.
Therefore, the best thing that the Americans can do for us is to leave the countries of the region to choose their own path, and choose what they consider to be a national, conscientious, legitimate government. I am not making a stand here against democracy, quite the contrary in fact, but it is necessary that democracy is not imposed upon each country in the region. It is important that there is an agreement on a general democratic framework, as is found in the developed world. However, it must be left to states and their people to determine what they adopt, based on the principles of human rights, upholding the state’s prestige, the peaceful rotation of power, fighting against corruption, and greater freedoms, in accordance with the individual components of each country. Take the states of Europe for example; they are not all the same, although they are all democratic. Even the largest European country’s concept of democracy is not the same as America’s concept; however there is a universal, broad framework.
The best thing the Americans can do for the Middle East is to find a practical solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, which puts our region at risk. This would also prevent Iranian expansion in our region. This is what Washington is capable of achieving, but as for what happened in Egypt, this was achieved by the Founding Children, not the Americans.