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The Realist Prism: Indecision on Egypt Leaves U.S. Interests at Risk

Friday, Aug. 23, 2013

As the Obama administration grapples with what to do next in Egypt, it may be instructive to review the U.S. efforts of the past decade to bring about fundamental political and economic change in Egypt and the other countries of the greater Middle East.

The events of 9/11 were a deadly wake-up call to Washington that the status quo in the region—the perpetuation of sclerotic autocracies that provided no meaningful outlet for the economic and political aspirations of the populace—was not sustainable. Indeed, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was later to note—in June 2005, speaking in Cairo, no less—that "For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East—and we achieved neither." The U.S. was now committed to pushing for change, though not at the expense of sacrificing key American security interests in the area. For the past 10 years, the challenge has been how to create more representative, inclusive systems of governance that would remain aligned with Washington. ...

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