Egypt highlighted as an example of political reform in State of the Union address

Vivian Salama
6 Min Read

CAIRO: It was January 1790 when America’s first president, George Washington, delivered the first address detailing to Congress and consequently to the American people, the state of the union, his administration’s initiatives and accomplishments. Since then, the “Annual Message, later renamed the “State of the Union address has evolved into an expansive communicator between the U.S. administration, its allies and its enemies at home and abroad. Having held office through the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks on America and the military campaigns in both Afghanistan and Iraq, it’s no wonder that President George W. Bush has sought to enterprise American ideologies regarding democracy as the defining mien of his political legacy. Dedicating the first half of his speech Tuesday night to the promotion of democracy, end of tyranny and terrorist networks worldwide, Bush firmly defended his policy on political and military intervention as the only way to ensure a safer tomorrow. “The road of isolationism and protectionism may seem broad and inviting, yet it ends in danger and decline, he began. “The only way to protect our people, the only way to secure peace, the only way to control our destiny is by our leadership.

Bush singles out “radical Islam as one of the main deterrents to freedom. It is from “safe havens, he explained, that these networks committed to the destruction of democracy plot their attacks against the West. For this reason, Bush stated, America must locate the root of the problem and tear out any bad weeds that look to corrupt or infect or destroy the well-being of those abroad. President Bush spoke extensively of America’s commitment to fostering democracy around the world. In 1945, he explained, merely two dozen democracies existed, as compared to 122 today. A strong regional ally to the United States, Egypt was referenced as an example twice during the address, with President Bush hailing Egypt’s new understanding of the “necessity of freedom. “The great people of Egypt have voted in a multiparty presidential election and now their government should open paths of peaceful opposition that will reduce the appeal of radicalism, Bush declared.

During her visit to Cairo, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice emphasized America’s wish to teach those who have a voice how to use it, and not what to say.

“The Egyptian government must fulfill the promise it has made to its people, and to the entire world, by giving its citizens the freedom to choose, Rice said in a speech at the American University in Cairo last June. “Egypt’s elections, including the Parliamentary elections, must meet objective standards that define every free election.

America has engaged in dialogue with Egypt, looking to promote an electoral process in which the there is legitimate opposition. Following 24 years of uncontested rule, President Hosni Mubarak chose to comply with America’s longtime appeal for democratic elections, proposing an amendment to the constitution. It was as good a time as any, given Bush’s democracy campaign in the region. Egypt, which receives an annual $1.8 billion from the United States in economic and military aid, second only to Israel, ultimately faced the dilemma of rejecting America’s wishes or being a model for “westernized reform. It chose the latter.

Some U.S. Democrats argue that Bush’s project for the promotion of democracy in the Middle East backfired, resulting in major gains for Islamists who adamantly reject Western-style governance. Last December, the world watched as Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood made their biggest gains ever during parliamentary elections. The banned but tolerated group walked away with 88 of 144 elected seats. Many believe they would have earned more were it not for obstructions and irregularities at polling stations.

In Palestine last week, Hamas, in its virgin run at organized politicking, won an unprecedented 74 of 132 seats in the territory’s first parliamentary election in a decade. Washington had previously expressed its opposition to dealing with terrorist organizations. Hamas, famed for its militant activity and anti-Israeli rhetoric, has denied intentions to negotiate with Israel, though Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has reassured his commitment to the American-brokered Roadmap to Peace.

Quite the predicament.

President Bush and his administration face the quandary of contradicting the message that would essentially define its legacy and jeopardize its credibility in a region where its reputation remains volatile. Arabs across the Middle East are, as Bush explained, “marking their liberty with purple ink. But what happens when the markings do not show up quite how Bush envisioned? Washington must tread cautiously in the coming months as a new breed of politicians take office across the region. If America is responsible for giving Arab voters a voice, then maybe it should sit back and listen to what they have to say.

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