Saturday, March 12, 2005
Egyptian opposition leader Ayman Nur, seen by some as a symbol of the movement for democratic reform, was freed on bail after six weeks in detention, Attorney General Maher Abdel Wahed told reporters.
Newshounds will remember that Nur is the Egyptian advocate for democracy who Hosni Mubarak chucked into the brig for meeting with Madeleine Albright. Condaleeza Rice cancelled a trip to Egypt and demanded his release, and Mubarak responded within 24 hours by proposing constitutional amendments that would, if enacted and enforced, substantially open Egypt's political system.
Like many of our new "heroes" in the Middle East, Ayman Nur has been profoundly anti-American. He led a campaign to boycott American products, for example, because of our ties with Israel. Most of the opposition in these Arab autocracies, whether liberal or jihadi, hates the United States, and we know that. The question is whether American support for democracy in the Middle East will eventually change the attitude of the "liberal" elites -- people like Ayman Nur and Whaleed Jumblatt -- so that when these governments do reform or fall they will continue to support the American war against the jihadis.
Interestingly, even Al-Jaz is hinting that America should get some credit:
His detention had caused diplomatic tension with Washington, which had also called for his release. International human rights groups have called on Egypt to release Nur, saying his detention is politically motivated. The prosecutor general has denied this.
Which do you think mattered more: "International human rights groups" or Condaleeza Rice?
Big Pharoah has the link up, but no commentary yet. We are waiting with bated breath.
CWCID: Captain Ed.
Does it really matter if it changes their attitude (as to your question "whether American support for democracy in the Middle East will eventurally change the attitude of the "liberal" elites")? I think it's perfectly fine if countries are ani-American as long as that attitude takes the form of boycotts and not hatching plots on more ways to kill as many of us as possible or supporting those that do.
You make a good point, Saije, which I agree with. I probably used too much shorthand in the post. To be a bit reductionist about it, I suppose our objective in promoting democracy is both to "drain the swamp" of authoritarianism -- which we hope will reduce Muslim anger and therefore jihadism -- and preserve governments that will cooperate both covertly and overtly in the war on the jihadists. If draining the swamp is not a total solution but only one brick in the foundation, the war will continue and we will need help from Muslim governments. That is why I hope the democracy movement will reduce anti-Americanism among the relatively liberal elites in the Arab countries.
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