I applaud Rep. Engel’s letter to The Riverdale Press in which he states his hopes and support for the democratic revolution in Egypt. It’s good, and new, to see the American political establishment seemingly in support of a homegrown democracy there. For example, in the face of the massive and growing protests that led to the ouster, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continued to refer to Egypt as “stable.” And not three weeks before Mubarak stepped down, Vice President Biden said he would “not refer to [Mubarak] as a dictator.” President Obama was cautious as usual, no surprise there.
However, the unfaltering bravery of the Egyptian people can apparently inspire us to truly support democracy and perhaps to engage in further conversations on thorny topics, such as Israeli-Arab relations. Against this background, I would like to make a few comments about Egypt’s struggle for democracy in relation to our own.
To begin with, it’s worth remembering that the U.S. sustained the Egyptian dictatorship for 30 years, most concretely through $60 billion in aid (that’s the equivalent of a $500 tax cut for every household in America). Historically, our government has not supported the Egyptian people; it has supported their repressive regime. And U.S. political history is full of clear instances of American support for dictatorships over democracy.