Whither Egypt and the West in the Middle East

The developments today and yesterday regarding the upheavals in Egypt seems to indicate a pull back by the US and Europe from the previous stance of urging an immediate move towards an early transition. More doubt has been thrown into the early leaving of Mubarak, with the latter’s clear strong reluctance to go, the offering of an “orderly transition” by Vice President Omar Suleiman, accompanied by Sec. Clinton’s statement: “That it takes some time.”

The new hesitant stance by the Obama administration and European leaders seem to leave the demonstrators in the streets of Cairo left without a quick solution and with the uncertainty of the future holding fair elections and real democracy. Their fear is rather a return of rule by the discredited National Party and the Army.

Each day the pendulum swings, and the danger is that both the democratic impetus will sputter and that, instead of winning over the forces of change to look on the West as their supporter, the democratic demonstrators will remember this rather as a “betrayal” by the West…..the worst outcome for all.

Already writers are saying that this is a contradiction of Obama’s statement to “begin a transition from power now.” ElBaradei has already criticized the reversal according to press reports. It would be a long-term strategic mistake to abandon the moves toward orderly democracy by prevarication and a return to backing the authoritarian regime even in a “guise” of false reform. This will not likely work over the long term given what we have seen are the views of the engaged Egyptian citizens.

There is good reason to want a orderly and a peaceful change – bloodshed on the streets would be a disaster for all parties – but delay may only be a step towards continued authoritarian rule by others of Mubarak’s ilk. This would be unacceptable, and indeed could bring about the outcome most feared by the West and Israel – namely a violent process and a radical Islamic influenced regime along with continued instability within Egypt and in the region.

More to come and we invite your views here.

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