Mubarak Gone, Will the US Learn?

US foreign policy is irrational.

Dr. Avi Perry

OpEds Dr. Avi Perry
Dr. Avi Perry


Since the early 80's the US has been arming and training the Egyptian army as if it were the most vital member of NATO. What's more, the US has done so free of charge to the Egyptians, as the American taxpayer shelled out the bill.

This Egyptian military machine is now the most formidable Muslim force in the Middle East, a close second to Israel. It is a military machine to be proud of, to be scared of, to be intimidated by.

But why? Why does Egypt require this kind of lethal power? Does anybody pose a threat to the Egyptian nation? Are they subject to potential genocide? Does Iran want to wipe them off the map? What is the purpose of this arms buildup? And why has the US been gifting it?

Egypt does not need all these weapons, unless, of course, the Egyptian regime falls and is taken over by warmonger Islamists who hate the US, the West and Israel, then deploy its military machine against the hated infidels, against the ones who "stole" the holy land from its "true owners"—the Muslims.

This American policy of beefing up and training the Egyptian armed forces is downright unjustified. True. It serves the American arms industry. It's an indirect subsidy, designed to keep the production line full of zip. But so is a policy, which lets Afghans grow opium and cocaine in order to keep their economy going, or a hypothetical course of action allowing Latin American drug lords operate freely, since their venture boosts their country's balance of payment.

Does the end justify the means? Does arming the military dictatorship in Egypt serve world peace?

In fact, it could have, if the Egyptian government were stable, secular, rational and democratic. But as recent events have proven,
American leaders are unable to see the teeth of that Islamic jaw trap.
other than being secular, it's not stable and it is in conflict with US human rights ideals.

And this is where US policy defeats itself.

Recent events in Egypt have confirmed that a peace agreement between Israel and an Arab dictator may not be a stable state of affairs. It could easily turn into a short-lived episode if the people, these dictators rule over, replace their chief with a new government via a popular revolt, a military coup, or with an American model of a peaceful process. Even before the recent revolution in Egypt, when events pointed out to a peaceful transition of leadership due to Mubarak's age, Israeli anxiety was moving up the Richter scale, owing to the uncertainty involving the next leader's stance towards peaceful relations with the Jewish state.

Unlike a secular democratic regime—where continuity of foreign policy, observance of international agreements signed by an earlier administration, and a rational political process involving checks and balances—an autocratic rule is a one-man-show—where policy discontinuity, in the face of regime change, is the rule rather than the exception.

And when this man, this dictator, rules over a Muslim mob, many of whom view Jihad, Sharia Law, supremacy, suppression of women, anti-Semitism as their guiding light, then the emergence of the next Islamic militancy is highly probable.

It would not matter that a democratic regime may replace Mubarak's. It would not matter that the Muslim Brothers may not capture the top job in a newborn democracy. These radical Muslim extremists will be able to manipulate the next democratic government and dictate policy behind the scene, especially if Muhammad Elbaradei, an adversary of Israel, captures the top job.

And they will control a powerful military, built and propped up by the American tax payer, only to have this army turn on the hand that feeds it.

American policy in the Middle East is blind. Sometimes, I feel, its planning and reasoning are functioning at half speed. Despite their painful Iranian experience, American leaders are unable to see the teeth of that Islamic jaw trap. They do not understand that democracy and political Islam are contrary to each other.

Jimmy Carter, pushing the Shah out and insisting on democracy in Iran, was responsible for the rise of Khomeini and his religious thugs. Barak Obama's silence and lack of support for the latest attempt by Iranians to free themselves of Ahmadinejad's dictatorship made it easier for the Ayatollah's regime to solidify its hold on oppressive power through hubris and violence.  

The concept that the enemy of my enemy is my friend is a shortsighted vision that comes back to bite the believer, once the common enemy is defeated. The post-Mubarak regime in Egypt may not be the enemy of the enemy anymore. Whether in charge or behind the scene, the Muslim brotherhood will play an important role. They may facilitate the fashioning of an anti-west Egyptian policy towards Iran. The massive American military aid to Egypt may turn into a boomerang, just as American support of the Mujahidin forces in Afghanistan in their fight against the Soviet army smoothed the progress to breeding the al Qaeda monster.

Both, Obama and Clinton have claimed that they were putting pressure on Mubarak. They kept telling him to move faster on the road to greater freedom, higher standard of living for his people. They have claimed that they could foresee the danger; they could foresee the approaching unrest; they could hear the hissing sound of the escaping air of frustration; they warned Mubarak of the eruption of the volcano lest he lets out gradual measures of democratic and human rights policies.   

But to no avail. They could not "help" Mubarak see the light.  Why then did the US administration invoke a policy of transforming the Egyptian army into the most formidable Muslim force in the Middle East, a force that might turn against the US and Israel? Why did they do it while fearing an uprising, which might give rise to a hostile leadership?

There is no doubt that US foreign policy in the Middle East is misguided. The Obama administration has a propensity to rely on the unreliable. The American administration keeps on pressuring Israel: "Make tangible concessions; make peace with Abbas; do your part in fashioning a Palestinian state."

And here we go again. Is the Palestinian leadership stable? Is it democratic? Will the peace document they sign live beyond the existing Palestinian Authority? How long will this unstable Palestinian regime take hold? Will the next leadership be peaceful and secular?

The answer to all of the above is "probably not."

Democracy cannot take hold in a society consumed with a sharply ingrained corruption, or in a culture filled with widespread, deep-rooted Islamic religious devoutness. The pressure the US put on Mubarak to leave, before he had a chance to ensure that the next regime is governed by secular democratic principles was a huge mistake.

President Obama may want to listen to the people who know best—the Iranian people. They know they made a mistake back in 1979; they understand the consequences of a hasty departure of a dictator who leaves behind no democratic infrastructure; they know that a political vacuum at the top provides an ideal opportunity for a small, but organized group to move in and hijack the revolution. They regret it now, yet it's too late for them.

Mr. American President, it may not be too late for you!