EGYPT, as old as recorded history, is going through more change. The safest, most optimistic view is to describe the national turmoil as a work in progress toward democracy.
The Obama administration has limited options, but must continue to be a voice for a nascent democracy, a dictatorship in transition. Keep pressure on Egypt’s military to put the mechanisms of civilian rule back on track.
Cairo’s Tahrir Square symbolizes Egypt’s resiliency and the pursuit of change. One moment the square is filled with passion to depose Hosni Mubarak, with the military’s help. Next came outrage at military rule that impeded democracy.
More protests produced the free election of Mohammed Morsi, another moment in history. So was the angry, frustrated recognition that his Islamist party was much more skilled as a vocal parliamentary minority than at actually running the country.
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Egyptians were back in Tahrir Square again celebrating the military’s role in removing Morsi and installing an interim president, a civilian judge.
The outrage and outcomes originated in streets throughout Egypt. The United States and others are proudly and defiantly seen as interlopers by those who turned out.
President Obama’s grandest hope is to stay part of the conversation with the military and with civilian interests that will listen. Maintaining a credible presence means continuing the financial assistance to the next government.
The money, some $1.6 billion, has leveraged stability between Egypt and Israel, and that is no small return on the investment.
Egypt is at a full roiling boil, sorting out its economy in the midst of establishing a workable version of a democratic government. The model is important, but results matter. That lesson cost Morsi his job.
For now the names and faces of Egypt the U.S. knows best are in the military. Use the influence to get the military to get out of the way.