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Will the US Offer More Than Platitudes to Nurture Democracy?

March 16, 2011

The January 25 Revolution Youth Coalition–made up of six youth groups who planned the uprising–refused to meet Hillary Clinton during her visit to Egypt this week because of the U.S.’s longtime support for Hosni Mubarak.

According to Al Ahram,

the coalition said it did not welcome Clinton’s visit to Egypt and demanded that the US administration make a formal apology to Egypt’s people for its foreign policy towards the country in the past decades. They added that “the Egyptian people are the masters of their own land and destiny and will only accept equal relations of friendship and respect between the people of Egypt and the people of America.”

The coalition’s declaration as almost certainly influenced by advance media reports about what Clinton was going to say to the youth leaders. A Reuters story published in several Middle Eastern newspapers said that a US official summarized Clinton’s message as:

“What happens next is as important as what came before. Transitions to democracy are difficult and they don’t produce results overnight or end with the first successful election.

One can understand why the planners of the uprising, who paid with their bodies and blood, and that of their friends, followers and fellow travelers, might not wish to listen to these kinds of platitudes from a spokeswoman for the country that paid for, and manufactured, the tear gas and rifle shells used against them by the regime they overthrew.

But media reports also say that Clinton will urge the military rulers to follow through on their promises to lay the ground for a genuine transition to democracy and offer support to the citizens that toppled Hosni Mubarak from power.

The risk that the revolution will be hijacked–whether directly or via hasty elections–remains very real. The US, because it is Egypt’s primary source of foreign aid, especially to the military, has real power to influence change and push the governing military council toward nurturing real democratic change.

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