Where Do We Go From Here?


Foreign Policy asked experts to weigh in on what Egypt means for the future of U.S. foreign policy.
FEBRUARY 4, 2011

For the last 11 days, eyes around the world have been fixed on every twist and turn the events unfolding in Egypt. Yet almost two weeks after protestors first came to the streets of Cairo and Alexandria, much about Egypt’s future remains unclear. What is certain, however, is that 30 years of U.S.-Middle East foreign policy is having to be rethought in a span of days.

So where does American diplomacy go from here? Foreign Policy asked the experts:

* Daniel Kurtzer: Is Revolution What’s Best for the Rest?
* Thomas Pickering: When Our Alliances Come at a Price
* Aaron David Miller: A Complicated Post-Mubarak Egypt Ahead
* Nicholas Burns: Obama, Now Is Not the Time to be a Realist
* Elliott Abrams: Freedom Must Return to the Agenda
* Zalmay Khalilzad: The Interim Plan: What Egypt Needs Next
* Stephen Sestanovich: The Three Changes Coming to Obama’s Approach to the Middle East
* Steven Simon: No Need to Panic

Is Revolution What’s Best for the Rest?
By Daniel Kurtzer

Under the best circumstances, the U.S.-Egyptian relationship will emerge from the current upheaval deeply scarred and tenuous. Neither the Egyptian regime nor the demonstrators have been satisfied with Washington’s stance; each has demanded clarity and a clear expression of support for its preferred outcome. Washington has done a good job of trying to balance U.S. national interests with the concerns of Egypt, but these efforts have nevertheless fallen short of Egyptians’ expectations.

At the heart of the U.S.-Egyptian relationship is a complex and confounding policy dilemma. On the one hand, Egypt is a critical partner in our efforts to secure peace in the Middle East; on the other, it is an undemocratic country whose model of governing is at odds with our ideals. Yet for more than 30 years, this relationship, conflicted as it is, has been managed without much fuss because of the absence of an over-riding crisis that pushed the problem to the surface. This all changed last week.

The main elements of our strategic relationship with Egypt are well known but worth repeating. Egypt has been the lynchpin of all efforts to secure Middle East peace. With the critical assistance of the United States, Egypt has undergone transformative economic change over the past three decades — from being an almost-bankrupt country with a failing infrastructure, to a viable economy with a relatively sound infrastructure. With U.S. cooperation and aid, the Egyptian military has also turned around 180 degrees, from reliance on Soviet doctrine and weapons to a modern force supplied by the United States that is largely interoperable with American forces. Virtually everything the United States sends to support our strategic and military interests in Iraq, the Persian Gulf, and Afghanistan goes through or over Egypt, and the country provides vital facilities on the ground to service our efforts. Egypt has also been a solid ally in the struggle against terrorism, drawing on its own experience to assist in the global effort. Saying that Egypt is critical to U.S. security is not simply lip-service, but rather a reality supported successfully by our investments and diplomacy in that country over the past 30 years.

And yet because of its undemocratic political system and documented abuse of human rights and religious and personal freedoms, Egypt has also been a place of great concern for the United States. Despite our need to have Egypt as an ally, we have not shied away from expressing our views on this. Washington has spoken out publicly and delivered tough messages privately on individual cases and broader policy issues


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