Next week President Obama is due to make a “big speech” in Cairo that, among other things, will likely set the tone for U.S. attitudes towards authoritarian regimes like, well, Egypt’s. And given the unsavory reputation of “democracy promotion” as part of the Bush administration’s foreign policies, it’s not clear exactly what direction the president will give on this subject.
At The New Republic yesterday, TDS co-editor William Galston assesses the challenges the president faces in formulating his Cairo speech, particularly in view of the legitimate preeminence of economic and security concerns at present. Galston asks four specific questions:
* Consistent with the overall case he presents, will the president discuss democracy and human rights during his formal address to the Muslim world?
* Will he also bring up these concerns during private meetings with President Mubarak, and if he does, will his entourage take steps to publicize this fact?
* Will he meet with well-known dissidents, opposition leaders such as Ayman Nour, and representatives of beleaguered independent groups?
* Will he insist on the right of the United States to fund whatever Egyptian groups it chooses, whether or not the Egyptian government has officially recognized and certified them?
How Obama answers these questions will largely determine whether democracy and human rights continue to be viewed as a significant part of the administration’s policy towards the Middle East, and of its efforts to rebuild U.S. diplomatic strength and moral capital after years of sporadic neglect.