Saturday, December 10, 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For

This has been a rough week for elections as far as the United States is interested. Things in Russia are in a very interesting situation, one that we will not address in detail in this entry. What concerns us here is the situation in Egypt, where recent elections went off seemingly without a hitch. At the very least nothing happened in the voting process that the United States has raised a fuss over. This, of course, is not to say that America is happy about the outcome of the elections.

Unsurprisingly, the moderate Islamists in Egypt won a plurality of the positions that were being contested. However, a more hardline Islamist party also won a considerable number of seats, much to the chagrin of Western observers. Together, the moderate and hardline Islamist parties have enough seats to form a majority if they were to join forces. While the moderates claim this will not happen, this is still a worry for many outsiders.

This week, Secretary of State Clinton stated, "Transitions require fair and inclusive elections, but they also demand the embrace of democratic norms and rules. We expect all democratic actors to uphold universal human rights, including women's rights, to allow free religious practice." That's very nice--it's also very unrealistic. In America, it seems that we do have expectations for what regime change will bring, but we have no basis for these expectations. As we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's not easy to foist democracy upon a society not used to it, and it's certainly unrealistic to expect a complete shift in human rights. Just because the Arab Spring looks to be bringing something different, different isn't always better. The success of these events will be measured in decades, not in months. That being said, what's a potential outcome? Well, look again at Afghanistan. It wasn't too long ago that Secretary Clinton herself spoke in glowing terms about women's rights in Afghanistan; now, we can accept negotiating with the Taliban for a place in the government. In other words, don't hold your breath for universal human rights in Egypt.

No comments: