Muddling Through in Egypt

Since last month's overthrow of Tunisia's President, Zine el Abi-dine ben Ali, the Middle East has seen massive protests ignited by political grievances and economic frustrations.  The experts interviewed are hopeful that Egypt and America's other allies, notably Jordan and Saudi Arabia, will not fall into the hands of radical Jihadists. 

There is the comparison with the Islamic regime in Iran that evolved from a popular revolution to a takeover by Jihadists; however, Egyptian society is a bit more enlightened.  There is a large and successful Christian Community and many women hold positions of authority. Michael Hayden, the former CIA Director, pointed out that "Egypt is a secular country with a big Christian Community and great Universities.  Remember this is the middle class protesting, not just the poor.  They are a much more pragmatic populace." 

Although the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to exert its influence, those interviewed believe that Egypt will not be controlled by the extremists since Egyptian society does not for the most part support radical groups.  However, Pete Hoekstra, the former ranking Republican on the intelligence committee, warns that the Obama Administration must stop "acknowledging that America is part of the problem in the Middle East. They need to understand that we should not call for negotiating with this group. They are not moderate elements, and the Muslim Brotherhood and the radicals see this as a sign of weakness.  Our allies want a clear and forceful voice." John Burgess, a former Middle East Diplomat agrees with Hoekstra and suggests that currently the Muslim Brotherhood does not have much power. He further suggests that the military is very interested in avoiding chaos and wants to stabilize Egypt so they would not be inclined to support this group which is seen as extreme. 

In addition, American Thinker was told that the Egyptian people are much more interested in making a living and feeding their family than in fundamentalism.  They want a government that will create jobs and sees the issue centered on the economy not religion. 

Will there be a domino effect with some of America's other Arab allies, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States?  Absolutely not, say the experts.  They see the monarchies as much more stable since they rule with a firm hand.  Hayden says Jordan's King Abdullah is generally highly regarded by the people which is also echoed by Burgess regarding the other King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. In Jordan the King quickly took the air out of the protest by firing his cabinet to show that the government was concerned about the average Jordanian.  The King also announced $125 million in subsidies for basic goods, fuel, and an increase in civil servant pay. 

Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States are some of the richest countries in the world.  A former CIA operative who worked in Saudi Arabia said that "nobody is lacking for anything.  Even if the monarchy keeps a lot of the income, there is enough to spread the wealth throughout the country. Compare that to Egypt where Mubarak kept most of the aid.  Since there are many more people in Egypt than in Saudi Arabia there is much less to go around."

All agree that most likely there will be an orderly transition in Egypt, without extremist control, where the new government will honor past agreements.  To succeed, whether a "democracy" or monarchy, the governments must focus on the well being of their citizens and create an economic opportunity which is more of an issue than fundamentalism.
Since last month's overthrow of Tunisia's President, Zine el Abi-dine ben Ali, the Middle East has seen massive protests ignited by political grievances and economic frustrations.  The experts interviewed are hopeful that Egypt and America's other allies, notably Jordan and Saudi Arabia, will not fall into the hands of radical Jihadists. 

There is the comparison with the Islamic regime in Iran that evolved from a popular revolution to a takeover by Jihadists; however, Egyptian society is a bit more enlightened.  There is a large and successful Christian Community and many women hold positions of authority. Michael Hayden, the former CIA Director, pointed out that "Egypt is a secular country with a big Christian Community and great Universities.  Remember this is the middle class protesting, not just the poor.  They are a much more pragmatic populace." 

Although the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to exert its influence, those interviewed believe that Egypt will not be controlled by the extremists since Egyptian society does not for the most part support radical groups.  However, Pete Hoekstra, the former ranking Republican on the intelligence committee, warns that the Obama Administration must stop "acknowledging that America is part of the problem in the Middle East. They need to understand that we should not call for negotiating with this group. They are not moderate elements, and the Muslim Brotherhood and the radicals see this as a sign of weakness.  Our allies want a clear and forceful voice." John Burgess, a former Middle East Diplomat agrees with Hoekstra and suggests that currently the Muslim Brotherhood does not have much power. He further suggests that the military is very interested in avoiding chaos and wants to stabilize Egypt so they would not be inclined to support this group which is seen as extreme. 

In addition, American Thinker was told that the Egyptian people are much more interested in making a living and feeding their family than in fundamentalism.  They want a government that will create jobs and sees the issue centered on the economy not religion. 

Will there be a domino effect with some of America's other Arab allies, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States?  Absolutely not, say the experts.  They see the monarchies as much more stable since they rule with a firm hand.  Hayden says Jordan's King Abdullah is generally highly regarded by the people which is also echoed by Burgess regarding the other King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. In Jordan the King quickly took the air out of the protest by firing his cabinet to show that the government was concerned about the average Jordanian.  The King also announced $125 million in subsidies for basic goods, fuel, and an increase in civil servant pay. 

Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States are some of the richest countries in the world.  A former CIA operative who worked in Saudi Arabia said that "nobody is lacking for anything.  Even if the monarchy keeps a lot of the income, there is enough to spread the wealth throughout the country. Compare that to Egypt where Mubarak kept most of the aid.  Since there are many more people in Egypt than in Saudi Arabia there is much less to go around."

All agree that most likely there will be an orderly transition in Egypt, without extremist control, where the new government will honor past agreements.  To succeed, whether a "democracy" or monarchy, the governments must focus on the well being of their citizens and create an economic opportunity which is more of an issue than fundamentalism.