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Egypt: Another Pakistan in the Making?

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As Cairo explodes, it’s worth looking more closely at Pakistan for one potential trajectory that Egypt could take. Pakistan is deeply unstable, an impoverished nation torn asunder by clashes between militancy, the middle class, the army and a ruling elite.

The similarities between the two nations is quite striking.

Both Egypt and Pakistan…

…were born out of British colonial rule.

…are intensely religious states.

…have an educated elite with limited political power.

…have spent decades surpressing and appeasing their Islamic militants.

…share a border with a militarily powerful state with whom they have an uneasy peace.

…are seen as strategic lynchpins in the worldwide fight against Islamism.

…are dominated by their armies, which are the source of political power in the country.

…have limited natural resources and rely greatly on aid (Egypt’s tourism gives it the edge)

…have profound levels of poverty that no government can fix in anything like an acceptable period of time.

…have or will have weak civilian governments.

Does all this mean that Egypt will become as unstable as Pakistan?

Hopefully not, but it’s very, very possible. The one – very big – positive is the absence of nuclear weapons in the equation.

The most likely outcome in Egypt is profound instability as the major power players clash and maneuver. The Muslim Brotherhood, worryingly quiet so far, is almost certain to assert itself soon, and the Army, straddling its role as guardian of the status quo and icon of Egyptian popular nationalism, will have no choice at some point but to pick one over the other.

Finally, the West is playing a delicate game of ignoring the 800 pound gorilla in the room – which is Islamism. They want ‘democratic’ change in Egypt, but they don’t want ‘freedom’ to open the door to Islamic rule as it did in Algeria and Gaza. These two examples have no serious strategic implications for world stability. An Islamic state on Israel’s doorstep is quite another story.

The only difference between Egypt and Pakistan is this. Pakistan, the fortunes and future of which keep US strategic planners up at night, is frequently democratic. Egypt is quite profoundly not.

For Washington, no matter what they say, or even what they’d like to believe, the cold hard truth about democracy is this. In many under-developed nations, particularly Muslim countries, it’s rarely in the interests of the United States.


Written by coolrebel

January 30, 2011 at 10:03 am

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