Monday, January 31, 2011

Catch 22 of US Diplomacy

Hillary Clinton's position on the protests in Egypt may not be the most effective public diplomacy. She mentioned in an interview with CNN that the US supports "peaceful protests" and that the US does not want to see Egypt descend into chaos and destruction. The problem I have with this position is the blatant way she seems to support working with President Mubarak to reform the government from within. This seems to be for the purpose of preserving our strong historical ties with Egypt, rather than considering the interests of the Egyptian people.

The US seems to do a good job of promoting democracy in words without forcing any hands. However this can have negative consequences. For example, in the CNN article, "Clinton calls for a peaceful transition to democracy in Egypt," Clinton's position was criticized byMohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who said, "People need to see that you not only talk the talk, but walk the walk, and people need to understand and believe that you really seriously take democracy, rule of law, freedoms seriously. And to say we have a tight rope that -- and between the people and the dictator, to say that we are asking a dictator who's been in power for 30 years to implement democracy is an oxymoron, frankly."

I have to admit that his position made some sense. The US government should not forget that we didn't walk into parliament and petition for a democracy which was granted shortly thereafter...there was a revolution. I understand that it is in the United States best interest for Egypt to be stable. However, at this point, the US government could show the Egyptian people that we understand their position and support the most viable means to a more democratic society...which seems unlikely to be through Mubarak.

Based on last weeks discussion, Clinton's monological form of PD was designed with the intent of informing the world on the United State's current position of the protests in Egypt. This one-way communication was not intended to be a dialogue, but rather informative. Clinton, however, did imply that the US would like to help "clear the air" to help Mubarak facilitate a dialogue between the government and civil society. How effective this will be remains to be seen.

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