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Weekly Standard: The Egypt Test

May 30, 2011

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In a piece for the Weekly Standard, Ellen Bork writes that Washington needs to revive its relations with Cairo in order to reignite the transition from dictatorship to democracy that has stalled in Egypt since Mubarak ceded power more than three months ago.

In his speech at the State Department on May 19, President Obama called Egypt essential to the future of democratic reform in the Middle East and North Africa. As the largest and most influential Arab country, Egypt could in large part determine the course of the regional uprisings and the prospect of liberal democracy in the Islamic world. Yet violence against Copts, rising crime, and attacks on Israel's Gaza border and its Cairo embassy are causing alarm about where “democracy” in Egypt is leading. And for good reason.

Many people in Egypt and abroad regard the upcoming elections with trepidation. They fear success at the polls by the well organized Muslim Brotherhood and other extremists. In his State Department address, President Obama answered the question that has hung over many of the uprisings in the Arab world: whether America could accept the results of democratic elections even if the victors were starkly different from the putatively secular leaders we have relied on in the past. Democrats are those who win and govern by the rules of a democratic system, the president said, not those who “restrict the rights of others, and to hold on power through coercion.” America, he went on, will work with “all who embrace genuine and inclusive democracy.”

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