As you read Egypt Until Democracy, you know how globalisation, the rapid growth of science and technology and, most importantly, communication have challenged and even transformed all the moral and ethical values of human beings that existed for millennia. There are also cases where the transition has acted indirectly, whereby major global powers that were geographically distant are brought right to their doorsteps, thus setting in motion complex geopolitical events that they were not prepared to deal with.
Many countries in the world in this century are suffering from the same troubles, but on different scales. Egypt Until Democracy, by Nepal’s veteran media personality and development professional Pushpa Adhikari, makes you compare Nepal’s situation to that of Egypt and make inferences for your deeper understanding of the past, present and future.
Western countries have been far from amenable towards Egyptians and their ideas about democracy in recent decades. During the Clinton administration, the American leader claimed that one of the three main pillars of American foreign policy was the promotion of democracy in other nations. This crystallised the US mandate to promote democracy in Egypt, which led to the establishment of the United States Agency for International Development, an organisation designed to support democratisation efforts in addition to the traditional development aid.
In the first few years of the 1990s, the aid sent to Egypt was used to support the rule of law and civil society; in the latter half of the decade, the aid expanded to support governance and media. The US was spending almost $2 billion annually to Egypt for a myriad of projects and specifically earmarked aid for democratic efforts comprising approximately $20 million of the total.
Egypt, an ancient power in its own right, is today reduced to be in the ranks of developing countries. It is natural for that country to dream of restoring its former glory, thus, coming up as a major leader in Asia and Africa. The country is also an example of a misadventure setting it back, instead of pushing it forward. Because of its size and resources, Egypt still holds the zeal to bounce back again.
If it plays its cards right, Egypt has a good chance to revive itself as a major player in the global theatre, where multiple actors play their roles to maintain peace and work for the benefit of human beings. The time is right at present when the world is witnessing another transition- one the current tug of war between unipolarity and multipolarity is certain to bring about. Egypt Until Democracy tells it all.
Independent Egypt developed as the strongest and the most influential Arab nation after WW II. It became an important figure in bringing Arab unity and integration. It played the dominant role in establishing the League of Arab States in 1945. The league, headquartered in Cairo with an Egyptian secretary general and Egyptian staff, came under Egypt’s direct control and influence.
President Sadat’s close links with Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal and oil-rich Persian sheikhdoms provided Egypt with an opportunity to play an important role in the 1973 oil crisis and to impose an oil embargo on the US. This brought an important change in US policy towards the Middle East, which caused US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to make several visits to the area. The US government started taking a keen interest in the peak negotiation in the Middle East.
Outside influence and support for democracy gained roots in Egypt since President Sadat’s regime as democratisation was the demand for empowerment and choice in government and politics. Movements for democratisation stem from a growing awareness and criticism of Sadat’s repressive way of governance. Although democracy manifests differently in different societies, democratic ideals — such as secular governments — are based on the political traditions of the US and Western Europe. The US has been a proponent of a secular style of democracy in recent decades and rejects alternative styles of democracy.
The book’s value
There are quite interesting incidents the author has narrated in Egypt Until Democracy, such as the incident of locking all the fighter jets in the hangers and the commander in charge missing giving orders to retaliate against the Israeli attacks and Israeli fighters taking over the facilities.
The assassination of President Sadat and the endorsement of his Deputy Hosni Mubarak as the president, the continuous US support for the Mubarak regime for almost 40 years and the abandonment of that support in the wake of the Arab Spring are some fine examples of superpowers‘ use and throw’ model discussed in Egypt Until Democracy.
The book is well-researched and a good read for both academicians and policymakers. Its strength lies in the fact that author Adhikari has used his personal sources from the military and civilian authorities in Egypt in a very peculiar manner. One can feel very clear about the responsible parties for the fate of Egypt but the author does not say it himself. It is an arduous task to dig into the history from monarchy to the first decade of the 21st century of Egypt and put the references to substantiate it. Yet, the author has made Egypt Until Democracy very authentic.
His ten years-long effort will definitely be liked by West Asia enthusiasts and the strategic community.
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