Friday, February 11, 2011

Welcome to the West?

Much has been made these past few weeks of Egypt's civil society and the foundations already in place for a move to democracy. I hope this proves true. Right now, the West needs to do all it can to move Egypt into the fold. Turkey is an excellent model for what Egypt can be in short order. More needs to be done in the West to foster the contagion of secular democracy in the Middle East. It seems that there is a real opportunity for this to spread throughout North Africa (Libya the sole exception) as well as a few spots east of Cairo.

First, I would covertly and overtly offer financial and technical support to Egyptian institutions that will naturally support a secular democracy. Our "in" with the domestically respected military is very helpful to this end. We need to work with the Europeans to consolidate any gains by the forces of reason and moderation.

Second, I would openly recognize the revolutionary nature of these changes. We need to put our soft power to work. We should establish a "Union of Democratic States" within the region, offering free trade with the USA and EU, as well as generous technical assistance and civic support. Turkey would be the sole charter member, with Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq and Lebanon in the wings if all goes well in 2011. Membership in the union - and the benefits of same - would be suspended should non-democratic forces overthrow the civilians.

Finally - this could also solve many problems in Sudan. The nation is coming apart with the (non-Arab) south seceding effective July, 2011. The remaining Arab areas in the north (population 18mm +/-) could logically be absorbed by a democratic Egypt. The borders in Africa are artificial, crafted by the colonists, and unnecessarily divide people that ought to be united (as well as grouping people with disparate languages, traditions and religions ). If the Egyptian border moved south, the Islamist forces in Khartoum would be on the run.

Ironically, Nasser's dream of a unified Arab state could ultimately be realized - by the forces of secular democracy.

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