The lead story in the news of late is all about the unrest in Egypt. Most of us Americans watch with limited curiosity and then go about our daily lives. Why should we care? What affect will the unrest in Egypt have on us? The answer is that it could be substantial.
The United States provides $1.5 billion per year in aide to Egypt; most of it in the form of military assistance. Only Israel receives more. Why? Because in the Middle East Egypt stands as our lone partner in the war against terror. And they alone stand with us in support of Israel. Experts say there is no question that a stable Egypt has kept us safe. It is for that reason that while we have tried to nudge Egypt toward a more compassionate, equitable treatment of its citizens we have been cautious in our approach. They are a key player in maintaining stability in the region. An unstable Egypt could result in an even greater US investment into the area…in both treasure and blood.
Egypt is a youthful country. Sixty percent of the citizens are under the age of thirty and thirty percent of them are unemployed. The protestors want jobs, freedom and the end to what they feel is an oppressive government. Sound familiar?
So as the movement in Egypt grows from a youth movement to a countrywide work stoppage the US finds itself in a difficult position. The natural tendency is to support the will of the people; to call for the current government to step down and for free democratic elections to be held. But that is a difficult position to take when the current government has been one of our few allies in the region.
The US has historically called upon governments that are facing domestic unrest to initiate reform and conduct open democratic elections. Be careful what you wish for. The recent “elections” in Iran and Lebanon have not provided results that are the US best interests. The Muslim Brotherhood and numerous other radical factions are eager to step into the Egyptian void.
In the battle between US interests and those of radical Islamic Fundamentalists, a shift in the Egyptian power structure could drastically affect the stability of the region and the US position therein.
Egypt is up for grabs.