Egypt – what the West did not do
“We urge President Mubarak to embark on a process of transformation which should be reflected in a broad-based government and in free and fair elections,” – this is what the three biggest EU foreign policy players France, Germany and UK said about the protests and violent clashes in Egypt. At the same time EU institutions issued 3 different statements focusing on political detentions, restoring communication services. Once again, an international crisis with likely grave consequences for global trade and regional security shows the EU how disintegrated its foreign policy is.
US President Obama, as well as Chinese leadership has not taken sides and largely stood away from the conflict. Israel, of course much weary, has not made any public statements. Neither did Russia, which is now preoccupied with the tragic incident at Domodedovo airport in Moscow (which yet again comes ahead of elections in the country and amid rising popular unrest about the economic situation in Russia).
This all looks like an international political vacuum. A vacuum which is not unexpected though. Given the Western “forgiving” attitude to Mubarak’s semi-authoritarian rule in the last decades, one should not be surprised that the champions of human rights and democracy refrain from tough statements about the violence killed over 1,000 in 4 days.
Lack of reforms, soaring social unrest and Mubarak’s low popularity so far managed to escape from the political attention of the EU and Western countries. It is true that Egypt played an important role in Middle East peace process and was the first to sign a peace treaty with Israel back in 1979, but this should not have been the reason why Egyptians and their government were left to themselves. The opposite – exactly because Egypt is so important we should have pointed fingers earlier at the control on communications, election legislation and the unrestricted power of the president.
Just to mention a few examples – when a government suppresses social networks and blogging on-line it cannot possibly know what people are unhappy about and cannot take measures. It then outlaws political opponents, goes after their finances and does not allow international observers (anyone heard about the rigged elections for the upper chamber in Egypt last December?). The result of all this – growing unpopularity and low public support, which in turn are tackled by increasing presidential mandate to deal with court cases, charge with terrorism and set up special ad hoc courts.
We should have known better and assisted Egypt overcome the internal divisions of its 80 000 000 people. Military aid is not always enough. If the countries of the West really stand for democracy they should do more than give money to its friends and point fingers at their enemies on the basis of human rights.
“We hope Egypt will return to social stability and normal order as soon as possible,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Sunday. When the business elite of the country starts evacuating and when political leadership send their families abroad with gold bars in their suitcases, when the HQ of the ruling party is burned down and when military presence cannot stop the protests it sounds very naive to think that situation will go back to normal soon.
From here on we can only be bystanders of a violent coup d’etat and possible power grab by the only organised opposition movement – the Muslim Brotherhood (come back later for more on Egypt’s Islamist opposition movement)