Clinton Thinks Twice: Maybe Mideast Democracy Not So Good
Months after President Barack Obama hastened the end of the Mubarak regime, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wants the military regime in Cairo to move faster on elections.
Parliamentary elections are scheduled in three weeks, but discord, suspicion and protests may upset the timetable. The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists are leading the pack, but no one really understands the parties’ policies.
The United States’ first direct presence in Middle East elections was five years ago in the Palestinian Authority voting. There, American-supervised balloting mirrored America’s principle of democracy in action.
Aides to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice woke her up in the middle of the night with election results that she found hard to believe. Hamas had won, throwing the PA into disarray and leading to the eventual forced ouster of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party rule in Gaza.
Now, the Obama administration already is bracing for a victory by the Muslim Brotherhood, which spawned the Hamas terrorist organization.
William Taylor, an administration Middle East official who recently visited Egypt, said that if the Muslim Brotherhood wins, “I think we will be satisfied, if it is a free and fair election.”
Clinton is not dismayed but admitted Monday that democratic elections do not always further near-term interests of the United States.
Speaking to the National Democratic Institute on the Obama administration’s response to the Arab Spring uprisings, Clinton said the United States deals differently with pro-democracy movements, depending on the local situation.
Despite her dissatisfaction with the Egyptian’s regime’s months-long delay of elections, she said that democracy in the Middle East “can provide a more sustainable basis for addressing” American interests.
She tried to justify America’s intervention in Libya while it has laid low in Syria, whose President Bashar Assad she called a “reformer” in the beginning of the anti-regime protests seven months ago.
Clinton said action was necessary in Libya to protect civilians. In Syria, 3,500 civilians have been murdered in the uprising, but she tried to explain, "Sometimes, as in Libya, we can bring dozens of countries together to protect civilians and help people liberate their country without a single American life lost.
"In other cases, to achieve that same goal, we would have to act alone, at a much greater cost, with far greater risks and perhaps even with troops on the ground. Our choices also reflect other interests in the region with a real impact on Americans' lives – including our fight against al Qaeda; defense of our allies; and a secure supply of energy.”
Libya is a large producer of oil. Syria is not. Damascus also is a key factor in the Arab-Israeli struggle, is an ally of Iran and in effect dominates Lebanon through pro-Syrian and Hizbullah parties.
She left the solution to Assad’s ruthless suppression with Syrian themselves. “Those leaders trying to hold back the future at the point of a gun should know their days are numbered," she said.
Clinton chose to concentrate on Egypt, saying "If, over time, the most powerful political force in Egypt remains a roomful of unelected officials, they will have planted the seeds for future unrest. Egyptians will have missed a historic opportunity. And so will we."