October 23, 2012

SOMETIMES IT'S HARD TO ACCEPT WHO YOUR ALLIES ARE:

Working With the Muslim Brotherhood (ROGER COHEN, 10/23/12, NY Times)

The United States tried Middle Eastern repression in the name of stability for decades: What it got was terrorism-breeding societies of frustrated Arabs under tyrants. (Mohammed Atta came from Cairo.) The Brotherhood narrowly won a free and fair election. If they fail, throw them out next time. That's democracy.

It is time to overcome the "fundamental lack of understanding and communication" of which General Sobhi wrote. That can only happen through working with the real forces of Arab societies rather than "Green Zone" fantasies.

Mitt Romney thinks Obama has been "passive" with the Islamists; aid could be slashed. But when aid is cut off, and American attention turns elsewhere, and future generals start getting their training in Saudi Arabia rather than Kansas, we know the result: Pakistan. That is not where the United States wants Egypt to end up. Turkey is a far better, if imperfect, model, and it is to Turkey and its governing Justice and Development Party that the Brotherhood is looking.

Morsi, who studied in California and breaks into English when impatient with his interpreters, has reached out to the United States from early in the transition -- with trade requests, investment plans, vows to root out corruption, pleas to help get tourism back, and of course requests that aid be maintained. Even with little strategic alternative, America has leverage. It should be used to prod Morsi out of his Brotherhood roots toward the middle where the new Egypt must be forged. He appears ready to compromise.

America's radical policy turnabout in Cairo poses an important question: Why is this engagement with political Islam, even in Salafist form, confined to Egypt? If Washington has discovered by engaging that the long reviled Brotherhood, or at least large swathes of it, may have evolved into centrist pragmatists, what other such discoveries may be made through dialogue rather than confrontation?
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Posted by at October 23, 2012 9:22 PM
  
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