Egypt's Larger Problems

Monday, February 23, 2009

I share your disdain for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his undemocratic ways ["Watch That Welcome," editorial, Feb. 16]. But the strategic Egypt-U.S. relationship cannot be judged by how Mr. Mubarak treats dissidents and opponents or how he maintains a precarious peace in the region.

Egypt and the United States have been allies for 30 years. Yet no candid reviews have been made of that relationship. The Obama administration, occupied with more pressing priorities, needs time to assess Egypt, whose sole card has been its role in peacemaking, whether in its direct relations with Israel or in bringing the Palestinians to a transient truce. Is that worth $60 billion-plus in U.S. aid?

In all facets, Egyptians have suffered under Mr. Mubarak. Ordinary Egyptians loathe the United States because of its support for Israel and the unpopular Mubarak regime. Can we afford to start a new page with Cairo by ignoring the real sources of instability in Egypt? Rising unemployment and poverty, widespread hunger and malnutrition, high inflation, collapsing socioeconomic infrastructure, and failed education and health systems are examples.

Egypt's problems are much more serious and menacing than the poor treatment of dissidents, as much as we love them. The Post was misguided to place the emphasis in the Washington-Cairo relationship on the treatment of dissidents.



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