“This might be the moment where we see things start to change in the Middle East,” said Distinguished Professor Andy Strauss
to faculty and staff as he shared his thoughts about the events currently unfolding in Egypt on Wednesday, February 9th.
An international law scholar and an advocate for global democracy, Professor Strauss – who recently returned from a ten-day trip to Egypt on Saturday, January 29th – offered an engaging look at the current political situation in Egypt.
“I really think that this is a time to take action, and I don’t think that the Obama Administration is doing the right thing,” said Professor Strauss at the beginning of his remarks.
Professor Strauss outlined what he saw as two conflicting narratives that have played out in the Arab World since the Iranian Revolution. Efforts to displace hard-line dictatorial regimes or monarchies in the Middle East have been driven by either a desire for democracy or theology. Citing Turkey as a potential model for Egypt, he said that a democratic regime “doesn’t have to be anti-Islamic.”
Suggesting that “illegitimate” regimes like the Egyptian government were forces of instability in the Middle East that held on to power in part by focusing the anger of the people on Israel, the United States, or the western world in general, Professor Strauss called the current uprising in Egypt “democratic in its orientation.” He indicated his belief that any fear of the Muslim Brotherhood or other radical Islamic elements seizing power is unfounded because the movement to oust Mubarak is being driven not by radical Islam, but rather by more liberal elements.
Discussing a potential transition, Strauss advocated that the Obama Administration distance itself from support for the Mubarak regime in the hope that a democratic government could provide greater stability in Egypt. He called the administration’s current stance of not clearly distancing itself from the old order a “historic mistake,” and added, “Hopefully, this is a ‘1989’ moment,” referencing the Fall of the Berlin Wall.
Of current President Hosni Mubarak, Professor Strauss noted, “As long as he is there, the old order is intact.”
Following his remarks, the assembled faculty members asked questions and presented their own views. The far-ranging discussion touched on whether or not Mubarak would actually concede power, what leverage the U.S. government might have, the historical context of U.S. involvement in the Middle East, socio-economic development, the influence of Wahhabism, and pragmatism versus idealism in foreign policy.