The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Cook: The Egypt-US breakup

The U.S.-Egyptian Breakup | Foreign Affairs - Steve Cook:

The United States should greatly lower its expectations of what is possible in the post-Mubarak era and come to terms with the end of the strategic relationship. Expecting the new Egyptian president -- whoever that may be -- to carry on a partnership with Washington is like Václav Havel asking the Soviets for assistance after Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution in 1989. To be sure, there are no Havels in Egypt, and Washington is not Soviet-era Moscow -- but the analogy rings true enough for those people in Cairo's Tahrir Square or the Alexandria corniche who saw U.S.-made F-16s fly overhead or were choked by tear gas produced in the United States.

The urge among many in Washington to try to shape Egyptian political change betrays the belief that Egyptians have no agency, politics, or interests of their own. This attitude is the product of an old canard, popular among regime loyalists and some old Middle East scholars, that Egyptians are preternaturally passive and will always seek stability. Yet the nationalist revolution in 1919, the Free Officers'coup in 1952, the student revolts in 1968 and 1972, the broad-based opposition to Sadat at the end of his tenure in the early 1980s, and the last decade of street protests suggest otherwise. Clearly, Egyptians can help themselves.