'Il­licit af­fairs' with dic­ta­tors

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

The re­la­tion­ship be­tween al­lies may be likened to mar­riage. It has ups and downs, and keep­ing the bond alive re­quires de­vo­tion by both par­ties. How­ever, when a demo­cratic su­per­power such as the United States seeks to en­hance its re­la­tion­ships with au­thor­i­tar­ian na­tions, un­usual tac­tics are called for.

The US presents an im­age of ad­vo­cat­ing democ­racy by reach­ing out to re­form­ers - while at the same time max­i­miz­ing the ben­e­fits from its re­la­tion­ships with au­thor­i­tar­ian lead­ers. The United States has a long his­tory of sup­port­ing hu­man­rights ac­tivists, democ­racy ad­vo­cates and even in­sur­gents who top­ple their rulers. A moral jus­ti­fi­ca­tion is al­ways of­fered by the US to sug­ar­coat any for­eign-pol­icy flop.

The US in­ter­est in dom­i­nat­ing the world re­quires main­tain­ing good re­la­tion­ships with present and po­ten­tial rulers, to en­sure "mar­riage dura­bil­ity." Yet the mar­riage that the United States has been propos­ing to dic­ta­tors is not a Catholic one. It is more of a "mar­riage of ne­ces­sity." Be­ing less con­cerned with hu­man­rights abuses and the de­cay of democ­racy, Re­pub­li­can lead­ers and mem­bers of the US Congress have, nat­u­rally, been propos­ing "mar­riage sta­bil­ity" to au­thor­i­tar­ian rulers, best ex­em­pli­fied by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump's ex­plicit pol­icy of non-in­ter­ven­tion in other na­tions' in­ter­nal poli­cies. Trump has suc­cess­fully ap­plied this pol­icy at the ex­pense of en­hanc­ing dic­ta­tors' bru­tal­ity against their cit­i­zens world­wide.

"If Egypt were to ap­ply democ­racy, Is­lamists who spon­sor ter­ror­ists will come to power and ter­ror­ism will ex­pand uni­ver­sally." For­mer Egyp­tian pres­i­dent Hosni Mubarak used this mantra suc­cess­fully and it kept him from in­tro­duc­ing any of the po­lit­i­cal re­forms that the United States oc­ca­sion­ally de­manded of him.

Mubarak was partly cor­rect. After his ouster, and in the wake of Egypt's first free and fair elec­tions in decades, the Mus­lim Brother­hood as­sumed com­plete pres­i­den­tial and par­lia­men­tary pow­ers. Nev­er­the­less, though ter­ror­ism did di­min­ish dur­ing the pe­riod of Is­lamist rule, it im­me­di­ately re­sumed after the Brother­hood's re­moval from power.

After the Jan­uary 2011 revo­lu­tion, it be­came clear that the Mus­lim Brother­hood would come to power. The United States there­fore ex­plained to the Brother­hood that mar­riage comes with re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. Ap­par­ently the United

States ex­pected a dowry from the Brother­hood: to up­hold the peace treaty be­tween Egypt and Is­rael, re­frain from en­ter­ing any vi­tal re­la­tion­ship with Iran, and con­tain Ha­mas' vi­o­lent ac­tiv­i­ties.

As US sec­re­tary of state, Hil­lary Clin­ton was re­spon­si­ble for con­tract­ing her coun­try's mar­riage to the Mus­lim Brother­hood, fol­low­ing an "adul­ter­ous af­fair" of more than 80 years.

The Mus­lim Brother­hood, which had been ea­ger to as­sume power for al­most a cen­tury, ful­filled its part of the deal and far more. To our sur­prise, Ha­mas' vi­o­lent ac­tiv­i­ties de­clined sub­stan­tially and, con­trary to the rhetoric they had es­poused for decades, the Is­lamists ap­peared will­ing to main­tain a func­tional re­la­tion­ship with Is­rael.

Mean­while, Egypt's deep state, backed by the mil­i­tary, learned that the United States doesn't stick its neck out for any­one. The Egyp­tian deep state de­clined to en­ter an "adul­ter­ous af­fair" with the US and worked to seize back power, which it suc­ceeded in do­ing in the events of June 30, 2013.

Know­ing that Egypt's lat­est rul­ing regime had be­come the new

US part­ner and might re­main in power for decades, the United States re­frained from at­tach­ing the la­bel of "mil­i­tary coup" to these events, de­spite the fact that many Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal schol­ars de­fined them as such.

The United States fully grasped the moral of the story. It learned to ex­er­cise equa­nim­ity and de­tach­ment with re­gard to rec­og­niz­ing any up­ris­ing that might be un­suc­cess­ful. Thus when Turkey ex­pe­ri­enced an at­tempted mil­i­tary coup in 2016, the US held its breath for less than a day un­til the coup failed and then even­tu­ally con­demned the at­tempt, sav­ing its mar­riage to the present rul­ing regime in Turkey.

That said, the United States' rhetoric of democ­racy has saved the lives of thou­sands of ac­tivists world­wide who have tried to re­form their na­tions through peace­ful means. To avoid US pres­sure, au­thor­i­tar­ian rulers tend to soften their iron-fist prac­tices vis-a-vis in­sur­gents. This was best demon­strated dur­ing the pres­i­dency of Ge­orge W Bush, whose "democ­racy pro­mo­tion" led to a win­dow of po­lit­i­cal open­ness that cer­tainly con­trib­uted to the Arab Spring.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.