Diplomacy, not democracy, would be best for U.S. involvement in Egypt

In light of the ongoing tragedy in Syria, the world is reminded of the value of a properly functioning democracy, and more significantly, the inherent devastation that comes from not having one. Several hundred miles southwest of Syria, Egypt is undergoing a similar, albeit less violent, dilemma. Its people are publically pleading for a safe path forward, but contrary to Western consensus, democracy might not be the struggling nation’s best solution.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to prominence can be attributed to the weakness of its political opponents, not its internal strengths. Hosni Mubarak’s long three decades in office eliminated the necessity for political opposition. Somehow the Brotherhood emerged from Mubarak’s reign unscathed.

Though the Brotherhood ran a moderate platform in 2012, its policies took a dramatic shift when wide-sweeping constitutional reform was implemented, eliminating several crucial human rights provisions — equality for women and the Christian minority. His military incited violence against Brotherhood detractors. Police brutality reached an all-time high. The Egyptian people quickly recognized that Morsi was becoming his predecessor. So the revolution continued.

With the Brotherhood out of office and an interim government in place, the Egyptian people and military are left to pick up the pieces. The military, led by general Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, is now the Brotherhood’s most powerful and vocal opponent. The military too is excessive in its use of violence on civilians. Because el-Sisi and his military have wrongfully misused their enormous strength, the already complex situation has been muddied further. Months detached from the height of protest and with attention turning toward Syria, it is more difficult than ever for outside nations to make definitive choices in Egypt.

The United States is the world’s loudest proponent of democracy, and rightfully so. It is no coincidence countries with democracy are better performing — socially, economically, mentally — than those without. But for the U.S. to push democratic reform for Egypt without considering the repercussions is misguided. Morsi and his Brotherhood are an extreme Islamist group and must be treated as such. To assert the Brotherhood deserves equal political influence as its more truly moderate counterparts is dangerous. A democratically elected government that works to destroy the same democracy that put it in power is not a democracy.

Although the military’s current governance of Egypt is less than ideal, it is infinitely better than any potential Brotherhood alternative. If the United States is serious about curbing the spread of radical Islam, as it proved in Iraq, then it must side with the more centrist party. For once, the U.S. needs to forego the wistful talk of renewing democracy in Egypt and give its backing to the moderate military. Democracy, it must remember, is not always right for everyone.

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Sept. 12 print edition. Omar Etman is a contributing columnist. Email him at [email protected]

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