by Gordon L. Bowen, Ph.D.
Professor, Depts. of Political Science and of International Relations, Mary Baldwin College, Staunton VA 24401
Since it is sometimes difficult to read a scan from a newspaper, here is the full text:
One of the great conceits of my profession (i.e., political scientist) is the claim made that democracies will never choose to make war on one another. This "Democratic Peace" hypothesis has been treated as proven fact by U.S. Presidents ever since Woodrow Wilson explained World War I as a campaign to “make the world safe for democracy.”
Recent actions by Egypt's newly elected Parliament challenge this liberal belief. That nation has respected its peace treaty with democratic Israel for over 30 years. Negotiated and sustained by two military presidents, Generals Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak, pre-revolutionary Egypt pursued the path of peace. They were replaced in 2011, first by revolution then by newly elected lawmakers. Unanimously, that legislature now has voted to expel Israel’s Ambassador, to end commercial relations with the “Zionist entity,” and to formally designate Israel as an “enemy” of Egypt.
Currently, the Egyptian parliament shares power with a military caretaker, Gen. Hussein Tantawi. He leads a military that has seen benefits from maintaining correct relations with Israel. Two billion dollars in yearly U.S. aid has helped sustain Egypt’s military on this path. But, growing support in the electorate for Islamist parties suggests that a scheduled presidential election later this year will bring to power an anti-Israel executive leader as well.
Three wars lost to Israel once schooled Egyptian soldiers in the folly of war. In 1956, 1967, and 1973, failure on the battlefield brought a new sobriety to Gen. Sadat, who bravely chose to reach out to Jerusalem so to end the belligerency. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter presided over formalization of a peace treaty. Yet, when Sadat shook the hand of Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin on the White House lawn, many Egyptians refused to accept the peace. Sadat would pay with his life, assassinated in 1981 by junior army officers while reviewing a military parade.
Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, currently head of Al Qaeda, was jailed by Sadat’s successor, Gen. Mubarak, in a round-up of radical Islamists involved in groups implicated in the crime. Though Mubarak, an unelected dictator, now is reviled by most Egyptians, for 30 years the peace with Israel he maintained stabilized the region. Not always did the Mubarak Government advance U.S. counter-terrorism efforts. In the mid-1980s, for example, Mubarak ordered the release of detained radical Islamists including Zawahiri, viewing them as only a small and manageable problem. In the years that followed, policy preferences incompatible with peace gained in popularity among Egyptians. By 2012, rejection of the treaty with Israel and desire to reorganize Egyptian society to conform to Islamic law had come to enjoy popular support.
In early March 2012, the revolutionary Egyptian parliament went further: it voted to reject any more U.S. aid. The stated reason was anger over recent U.S. pressure for release of detained pro-democracy activists including 6 Americans and other foreign nationals. But, the deeper cause of problems in Egyptian-American relations, and in Egyptian-Israeli relations, stems from revolutionary fervor. It is a passion for Islamist ideology, not democratic moderation, that revolution has produced not just in Egypt but all across the region. Empowered now by elections, passionate ideologues simply are refusing to give up on their bedrock hatreds.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton now is under pressure to certify that further aid to this Egyptian government must be granted in the interest of U.S. national security. Such U.S. aid would be a mistake: Islamist-run Egypt has already said they don’t want our money. It’s time to reconsider the overall policies of promoting democratization of the Arab Middle East. Elections held in the absence of the rule of law and a diverse civil society clearly are producing belligerent governments. If we don’t start by cutting off the newly hostile Egyptian Government, it won’t only be Egyptians making fools of themselves.
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