Our muddled role in forming/suppressing Egyptian democracy
By Erica Wenig
February 16, 2011
In the aftermath of Egypt's relatively bloodless revolution,it is worth considering the apparently contradictory role that our owngovernment played: American foreign aid programs in Egypt were simultaneouslypromoting democracy and propping up an autocratic government.
According to the Unites States Agency for InternationalDevelopment in Egypt (USAID/Egypt), we spent $25 million on "Democracy andGovernance" programs for fiscal year 2010. In the same year, the ForeignMilitary Financing (FMF) program was providing $1.3 billion to prop up Egypt'svery undemocratic government.
So why is our posture so muddled? Gerald Hyman, former USAIDdirector of the Office of Democracy and Governance from 2002-2007, told TheExaminer that "the main reason" behind how our foreign aid money isspent in many countries is to win votes in the United Nations General Assembly.Carol Adelman, USAID’S assistant administrator from 1988-1993, did not go quiteas far, but noted that U.N. votes are an important motivator.
Adelman served as the Vice Chairman of HELP (Helping toEnhance the Livelihood of People around the Globe), a bipartisan commissionthat produced a major report on U.S. foreign aid for Congress in 2007. The HELPreport details the workings of “20 largely uncoordinated departments, agencies,initiatives, and programs manage U.S. assistance," and notes that "insome countries, the United States does not speak with one voice; separatepolicy and program decision-making processes lead to multiple conclusions andconflicting recommendations on program priorities.”
“In the field of democracy and governance (D&G), theseparation of our efforts into a State Department program and a USAID programhas led to such a lack of agreement on core issues that the Senate Committee onAppropriations noted: ‘The committee remains concerned that the StateDepartment and USAID do not share a common definition of a ‘democracyprogram.’”
If the right hand is actively working against the left hand,perhaps it's because we have a State Department run by people who say thingslike this:
“Labeling states as democracies or non-democracies, orlabeling movements pro-democracy or not, is too simplistic. The people in thestreets of Tunisia and Egypt are calling for new government. They’re callingfor freedoms they have not had; they’re calling for jobs. That’s a much morecomplicated picture than [whether they are] calling for what we think of asdemocracy or not.”
The quotation is from Anne-Marie Slaughter, who until thismonth served as the State Department's Director of Policy Planning, and itappeared in this week's National Journal.
Read more at: http://washingtonexaminer.com/print/blogs/beltway-confidential/2011/02/our-muddled-role-formingsuppressing-egyptian-democracy-0