Some US political actions can be commendable, while others can be surprising. Last week, Arab and international media headlines highlighted the US administration's decision to cut its aid to Egypt over its human rights abuses. The administration believes that human rights in Egypt need to be reformed, or it will be punished! Human rights are a thorny issue and politically loaded, and even the definition is different globally. It is inappropriate for some to say that there are countries with poor human rights records that go under the radar of the US administration, because any observer knows that it has to do more with politics and less with humanity, so I will not go in that direction and say you do not talk about poor human rights records here or there. However, the question remains: What are the criteria of human rights? Probably, there are none!
The transformations that have taken place in Egypt since the beginning of this millennium affected its policies, propelling it into a deep political abyss. There are two hypotheses, as the observer asks which is relatively better: An Egypt, where more than 100 million people live, that is stable and safe and on the road to growth and far from any hostile activities towards others or neighbors; or a fragmented Egypt like Syria, Libya or Yemen, tampered with by devilish forces who want to export their dark model, allied with demons in order to go down that path. Any sane person will choose the first option, even if it has some errors that can be fixed over time. Egypt is not Syria, or Libya, or Yemen, if it is divided, God forbid, the region would be hit by an earthquake like the world has never seen, and it would have happened had it not been for the acumen of the Egyptian people in 2013.
Certainly, there are those who think of those scenarios in Washington, namely, maintaining security, stability, and cohesion of the Egyptian state. However, the administration's behavior can be explained by the fact that the United States itself is going through a sharp and worsening internal tension. Many attribute the volatile foreign policy to internal interaction, as political tension in the United States is fragmented and contentious and has occurred gradually. The benchmark of US policy restricted the foreign dimension to the president's apparatus, and there is no dispute about it because it serves America's higher interests. The internal disagreement over foreign issues dissolves, as it was said, on the shores of the United States, a standard that lasted decades after World War II and ended perhaps in the 1980s, as deteriorating partisan and ideological polarization became more controversial and started to affect foreign affairs.
George W. Bush Jr.'s tenure was more controversial than Bill Clinton's, then became more so with Barack Obama and worsened with Donald Trump. This is the internal situation that brings about wide changes in American society, as well as the vision of the idealistic and inexperienced new generation of Democrats in international relations, or what the US literature calls “The New Left,” as well as the difficult economic situation that pressures the administration to shape its foreign policy choices to the point where a famous American commentator recently said that Biden is implementing Trump's policy in some key foreign issues. Hostility to China is often unjustified, driven by its political right-wing accusation of “stealing American jobs,” even though US companies build their factories in China to sell cheaper products to US consumers, while the left focuses on human rights in China. The United States makes inconsistent and ineffective decisions in these issues, which have recently angered France, one of its important allies in Europe.
What should be done regarding this position? It is foolish and unwise to adopt a hostile attitude towards the United States. It is an adventure that should not be undertaken. Hence, it is better to think of other alternatives. The wise adage says: Connect the interests. It is agreed that oil is no longer a means of linking interests, while other interests are used to build bridges with the world's closest US allies. The new administration did not turn its back to the Abraham Accord, but rather took care at the highest levels to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the signing, and the reason is that Israel, regardless of details or sentiments, enjoys US bipartisan consensus. Moreover, Britain is another important country for the construction of that bridge.
Interacting positively with Washington's political trends should be seriously considered.
The United States will remain the most important point in international strategy, and the worst that could happen is “to be an unwise friend to it”, which needs to be addressed on a number of external and domestic issues. First, building a smart, interactive, and effective overseas lobby to speak to American and Western activists in their own language, toward which some encouraging steps have been taken. Other capitals such as London, Paris, and Berlin must be considered as well. Second, carrying out social, economic, and political reforms in order to respond to the aspirations of new generations in our societies by bridging management and opening the doors for new job opportunities that will absorb the future large labor force, and working hard not to fight corruption but to eradicate it as much as possible, and to put societies on the path of modernization and development. In fact, this is what Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, and Egypt have started doing, and the completion of this project is of paramount importance for a smart friendship.
In conclusion, countries can maintain their stability through serious dialogue. If you blink in today's world, rumors abound and misinformation spreads. Vigilance is the motto of the stage.
This article was originally published and translated from pan-Arab daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat.