We see it on the news channels regularly — the uprising in Egypt. Turmoil in Egypt has been the center of attention of international news for more than two years, starting with the ousting of military leader Hosni Mubarak and now the first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi.
Many of us think only briefly about the conflict, not really digesting the crisis or, quite frankly, not caring. "Most Americans only care about Honey Boo Boo or the prices at Walmart," says Dr. Mouyyed Hassouna, Associate Professor of Political Science and Geography at ABAC.
Certainly, it can be difficult to grasp the importance of a situation that is more than an ocean length away. Global education in our school system is limited.
We see Egypt as a tragedy. You see the pain of the families who will never see their loved ones again. You see a mother lose her son, a wife lose her husband, and a babies losing their fathers just because they went to protest. Even in their deaths, Egyptian families are denied a chance to grieve for them. So what are they protesting? What are they dying for?
Despite the awful circumstances, the answer is simple. Democracy. We have the liberty and luxury to enjoy it every day. In general, Americans may see this coup d'état or revolution as only a concern for Egypt. However that is not the case. America's actions have a profound effect on the happenings and outcomes that may come from the civilian uprising in Egypt.
Dr. Joseph Njoroge, Department Head of Politics and Religion, advises, "In order for Americans to understand what is happening today, they must understand the history of the relations between Egypt and America."
A good relationship had not always been present between the U.S. and Egypt. With Egypt the leader of the Arab nations, the U.S. has always had to tread carefully in affairs with them. In 1973 and 1976, Egypt led wars against Israel — the Yom Kippur War and the Six Days War, respectively. In both wars America assisted Israel, which was successful in defeating Egypt.
In 1978, with the persuasion of President Jimmy Carter, Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat signed a historic peace treaty with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem to end hostilities on both sides.
This treaty that created the much needed peace between the two nations is now the dilemma for the U.S. Dr. Njoroge says, "The U.S. is caught between a rock and a hard place."
America leaders want democracy in Egypt, but by the agreement of the treaty the nation is forced to support suppression. Under the treaty, the U.S. has to support the Egyptian military and give them aid.
This is why we see familiar weapons being used by the Egyptian military. America gives Egypt $3 billion dollars in foreign aid — the most we give any country.
There is a lot of criticism as to why America continues to assist a regime that so ruthlessly murders people who are fighting for democracy.
"Americans should care that the American government is not cutting aid from the Egyptian military or any of their opponents," stresses Dr. Hassouna. He adds, "As Americans, we should search our own values and not work against our own democratic values."
Why isn't the American government stopping these heinous acts by discontinuing the aid? We have the power to do so. This is where we are caught in a very difficult, very sticky situation.
According to Dr. Njoroge, if the American government were to stop aiding the Egyptian military, the U.S. would lose both "strategic and regional interests" — neither of which we can afford to lose.
Egypt serves as a medium for international relations and shipping. "If Egypt were to fall so could other African countries, but because it is a leader if it were to become a democracy it would be an example to other Arab and African nations," explains Dr. Njoroge.
Egypt also controls the Suez Canal and it serves as transportation of oil. We would also lose regional interests in that we could no longer provide protection to Israel, which has always been a priority of the U.S. and continues to remain so.
The U.S. needs Egypt to remain stable. This may seem a little ironic given the current crisis, but if Egypt were to collapse, Al-Qaeda could take over and the problems could grow much worse — and not only for us, but globally. It could be the preamble to the next world war, Njoroge said.
With the beginning of the Arab Spring, the term used for the wave of protests in the Arab nation, many people around the world and in the U.S., felt a spark of hope that Muslim countries will become democratic, finally letting go of totalitarian rule. The U.S. supports democracy and at the same time must respect Egypt's choices.
Dr. Hassouna expressed thoughtfully, "Are Americans supposed to say that this is the end result of democratic elections? Should they interfere if they do not like the result? By supporting violence, we are violating our own laws."
It is up to the people of Egypt to decide their leaders without interference from us. It is up to them to shape their own way. America can really only stay in the background as a quiet support force to the people — and the military.
Despite the horrific events, the military is needed to keep some manner of stabilization. We can offer advice and subtle persuasion to the military from the leverage we do have from supplying military aid, but we must be careful not to create more tension.
Revolutionary uprising is nothing new to America. During the American Revolutionary War we declared independence from Great Britain, but still it has taken us more than 200 years to be considered a true democracy. Our own constitution and amendments are proof. It has been a work in progress.
We can't expect Egypt to be able to do the same in a much smaller amount of time after many years of being ruled by military generals. We should continue to keep informed on this crisis, because whatever happens in Egypt will also have profound effects on our country. Whatever course of action the American government chooses to take in the situation, the Egyptian people's voices must not be forgotten and our humanity must not be lost.