2005 09 10
Mubarak wins handily in free and fair vote! (Headlines edition)

The New York Times: Mubarak’s Victory Orderly, but Opposition Is Still Angry

The Washington Post: Mubarak Wins Easily, but Vote Fails to Engage Egypt

These headlines make a pretty little show of hinting at the truth, which is that the elections were really a big sham, but they don’t really do it for me. After all, if it’s a sham election, then it may have been a “victory,” but it wasn’t really an electoral victory, as you might suppose from reading the first headline. And saying that the vote “fails to engage Egypt” is a pretty weak way of saying that only 23% of the electorate turned out to vote, and that they voted in oppressive and unfair conditions.

I understand that headline writing is a tricky business and that headline writers can’t fit everything relevant to a story into the headline. And I don’t belong to that school of media criticism which complains whenever journalists present the facts and then leave their readers to draw their own conclusions. Still, the headlines here provide a sort of frame, which help to orient the reader in the story before he or she even begins to read the piece. And the frame both newspapers provide in this case gets the coverage off to a terrible start.

Let’s play the alternative headline game. We’re looking for something that is a) accurate; b) neutral between legitimate disagreements about the issue, if there are any; c) isn’t too heavy-handed, i.e., demonstrates a certain amount of faith in a reader’s ability to draw conclusions for herself. Here are a few: “Mubarak wins deeply flawed election,” “International observers criticize Egyptian vote,” “Anger at flawed vote in Egypt.” Those aren’t great, mainly because they’re perhaps a bit heavy-handed, but they’re better than the headlines quoted above. Note that all would be controversial, in the sense that Egyptian officials wouldn’t like them, but they still get past requirement b), since no sane, disinterested person could fail to draw the conclusion that the vote was deeply flawed.

Howls of outrage (3)

2005 02 26
Pushing reform in Egypt

Posted by in: Egypt, Political issues

Not a bad piece to wake up to:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday abruptly called off a planned trip to several Middle Eastern countries that had been scheduled for next week, a decision that came apparently because of the arrest of a leading Egyptian opposition politician last month.
[. . .]
The linchpin for Ms. Rice’s trip had been a planned meeting in Cairo of foreign ministers for the Group of 8 industrial nations and the Arab League to discuss economic aid and democratic change in the Middle East.

But that meeting was postponed by Egypt on Sunday in an early sign of the tensions that have been building even as the Bush administration has praised Egypt for its help in the Israeli-Palestinian mediation after Yasir Arafat’s death.

The immediate trigger for the tensions was the arrest on Jan. 28 of Ayman Nour, a member of Egypt’s largely powerless Parliament and head of an opposition party called Al Ghad, or Tomorrow. When Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit visited Washington last week, Ms. Rice made her displeasure clear, officials said.

After the meeting, Mr. Gheit protested that Mr. Nour’s arrest was an internal Egyptian matter, and Suleiman Awad, the spokesman for President Hosni Mubarak, said he rejected “any foreign interference in Egypt’s internal affairs.”

I’m sure that Egyptian officials are scratching their collective heads now and wondering just exactly how many people the Mubarak regime has to torture at the behest of the Bush administration for the Bush administration to leave Mubarak alone about the issue of human rights. Still, I don’t see how highlighting the plight of reformers in Egypt is a bad thing, and although I might come to regret it, I’m glad that Rice is causing a stink. The obvious hypocrisy hurts the effectiveness of the American pressure, but so long as the pressure doesn’t lead to the successful painting of the reformers as stooges for a neo-colonialist agenda, it looks as though the reformers could use a little external help here.

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2004 12 13
Employing Markets

Posted by in: Egypt, U.S. foreign policy

The US is using its market power to entice Egypt to adopt much needed reforms. We are now allowing more tariff-free goods into the US, and will continue to do so as long as Egypt continues to make progress. What sort of progress, you ask? Are they beginning to hem in their human rights abuses, including the recent rounding up of up to 3,000 detainees without charges or access lawyers? Of course not, we’re into that too. Nope, the greater access to US markets is “in exchange for using some materials from Israeli businesses.” Read about it here.

A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)

2004 07 18
Egypt: Military And Economic Aid (Taken Question)

I may need to refer to this in the future, so into the electronic scrapbook it goes:
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2004 05 27
Geffen, Drezner, Iraq and Egypt

Dan Drezner thinks that the Iraq War was worthwhile in conception, but flawed in execution. The conception, Drezner assumes rather charitably, was the neo-Conservative idea that democracy promotion was essential to the War on Terror. And that, we are told, necessitated the Iraq War. I would dispute a genuine concern for democracy as a real animating motive for most conservatives, but I am myself very big on the idea in general. Curiously, Drezner has kinder things to say about the neo-Conservative flavour of democracy promotion than my own. He writes:

For all their criticism of Bush’s grand strategy, Europeans and left-wingers have offered very little in the way of alternatives to his vision. Some say that American soft power could bring about change in the Middle East. But decades of alternately coddling, cajoling, and ostracizing Arab despots has not led to liberalization or democratization. We have showered Egypt with aid, but have succeeded only in propping up an authoritarian monster in Hosni Mubarak. We have tried to isolate Syria, but have only strengthened that country’s anti-American credentials. Maybe U.S. soft power is part of the solution to the Middle East’s woes, but soft power alone cannot accomplish our desired ends.

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2004 05 16
Saad Ibrahim

Dan Drezner reports an exchange at a conference about Saad Ibrahim, the Egyptian dissident:
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