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Egypt and the World

The recent peaceful revolution means the U.S. is in a time of great opportunity and great risk.

Some days resonate through history. Among them is July 4, 1776, the day that the Continental Congress adopted the Declarationof Independence. It was not only a great day for what turned out to be the United States of America, it proclaimed to all mankind that all people were entitled to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

A second, also American, was July 3, 1863, the day the union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg assured, in Lincoln’s words, “that government of the people, for the people, and by the people shall not perish from the earth.”

A third was May 8, 1945, when Germany surrendered to the allies and the Second World War ended in Europe. Those who are old enough to remember the lightning bolt of joy that went through most of the world must be reminded of that day by the crowds now celebrating on the streets of Egypt.

Feb. 11, 2011, is the day a peaceful revolution, marred only by the violence of the secret police of the existing regime, succeeded in forcing the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian dictator for 30 years. This day should be remembered not only in Egypt, but throughout the whole world. It is especially notable that this event occurred in a nation that is principally Islamic. Elements of Islam have turned to terrorism to achieve their ends, the result being bloodshed and horrors beyond belief, but little if no success to their cause. Yet Islamic Egyptians, along with their Christian countrymen, have achieved a democratic victory by the force of their will and their unity. What a lesson we Americans and the rest of the world have learned about Muslims, and what a lesson they have learned about themselves.

The final outcome, of course, is not clear. Military rule, no matter how applauded by the population, is almost never a predecessor to democracy. It appears that the U.S. has contributed billions to the Egyptian military. We could hope to exercise some influence over that military by the use of our purse strings. The problem is that Saudi Arabia has volunteered to replace our payments with even larger payments of their own. Saudi Arabia
does not even pretend to be a democracy. The influence of Saudi purse strings on the Egyptian military may turn out to be a lot greater than our own.

Another factor is--you guessed it--the Tea Party. Their demand for a reduction of 100 billion dollars in the U.S. budget does not bode well for the U.S. continuing to contribute to the Egyptian military. I don’t know that the Tea Party would be wrong in insisting that the Egyptian subsidy be reduced or even eliminated. That would depend, in my judgment, on what the Egyptian military does in the next few months. The wise thing is to wait and see. In any event, a cut of $100 billion from the U.S. budget would create economic chaos that would cause the present U.S. economy to be remembered as really good times.

One thing is clear. We are in a time of great opportunity and great risk. To succeed, politics must give way to deep thought and mature deliberation. Posing will not do. Realism is our best and only choice.

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