The Daily Demarche
Monday, June 20, 2005
Checking In.

It has been a while. I’ve had lots to do, but most of it is behind me. The movers have packed our stuff, bundled it into vans, and dispatched it to be carried across the world to our new destination. Smiley: The Next Generation is teething, which occassionally keeps us up at night, so the lovely missus and I are a bit groggier than usual (although I don’t think my coworkers can tell the difference). I don’t have as much time as I would like to spend on the blog these days, but I should have some more time this week before I depart for post. So I’m going to keep this post short, although I have some longer posts in mind for later in the week.

To begin with, I’d like to thank all of the participants in our most recent group blogging event, especially Marc Shulman of American Future and Eric Martin of Total Information Awareness. Both of these outstanding bloggers did exactly what we hoped: conducted a spirited, well-informed debate that never once veered from the parameters of civility and decorum. An index of their efforts can be read here or here. I encourage all readers of this blog to read their debate if they haven't already done so.

Since the subject of their debate centered on democracy promotion, I thought I would touch briefly on that subject today. I recently read an article by Richard Beeston in the Times of London, Sleeping Giant of the Arab World Awakes to Democracy, written by Richard Beeston. The whole article is worth reading; I'm going to quote it at length below.

HIS hair has turned white, his children have grown up and George Ishaq should, like other Egyptian men of his age, be gossiping in Cairo coffee-shops and dozing over the newspaper.
“I have been waiting a quarter of a century for this moment,” said Mr Ishaq, whose flat in Cairo has become a centre, if a chaotic one, for a broad spectrum of opposition figures, who troop in and out, organising protests and picking up leaflets.
“We have finally broken the culture of fear in this country. People thought Mubarak was a half-president, half-god, that he was a Pharaoh, that he was untouchable. Now we have the right to challenge him and say 24 years of Mubarak and his regime is enough,” he said, punching the air with satisfaction.
Half a dozen independent newspapers feel free to criticise Mr Mubarak, his Government and even his family, when once that could have meant prison. Where the ruling National Democratic Party had a monopoly on power for three decades, now dozens of parties and political movements are springing to life. Where it was assumed that Mr Mubarak, 77, would rule for ever, now the main debate in Egypt is who will succeed him.
Egypt’s version of the “Arab Spring”, as the democratic changes sweeping the region are known, is particularly significant because it has the strong encouragement of Washington. President Bush has stated repeatedly that he wants Cairo to set the example for democracy and is putting pressure on his key Arab ally to introduce the necessary reforms.
Mr Mubarak does not have much choice. America provides nearly $2 billion annually in aid to Egypt. Its embassy in Cairo, the largest American mission in the world, is openly supporting pro-democratic forces. When Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State, arrives in Cairo this month, democracy will be at the top of her agenda. Not long ago Cairo would look forward to such a visit; now there is unease. “I am sure they are dreading Condoleezza Rice coming out,” a Western diplomat said.
The apprehension is well founded. This month Mr Bush telephoned Mr Mubarak to berate him over the attack by activists of his ruling party on an opposition demonstration where women protesters were sexually assaulted. The Americans are pressing Cairo to accept international observers to monitor the elections. They intervened to help to secure the release from jail of Ayman Nour, a liberal politician who shot to fame after announcing that he would challenge Mr Mubarak in Egypt’s first multi-candidate elections in September. [Emphasis Added.]

It is important to remember that, the difficulties in Iraq notwithstanding, there is real movement towards democracy in the Middle East. Egypt, long considered the vanguard of the Arab world, could very well be the vanguard of democratic change in the Middle East. Naturally, there is still much work to be done, and Mubarak's willpower to change will frequently need the carrot-and-stick treatment, but if you are a fan of democracy promotion, this is definitely good news.

(End of Post.)

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dé·marche 1) A course of action; a maneuver. 2) A diplomatic representation or protest 3) A statement or protest addressed by citizens to public authorities.

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