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Schiff: U.S. Must Help Egypt Move to Democracy

Diplomatically, the AK Party has represented a challenge for the United States, as would any Egyptian coalition government. It refused to allow American troops to enter Iraq through Turkish territory in 2003, launched the so-called Gaza flotilla, tried to scuttle sanctions against Iran and has never come to grips with the Armenian genocide. Undoubtedly, a popularly elected Egyptian government would present a far more complicated and at times less reliable partner in the peace process than the Mubarak regime. But the Egyptian military, like its Turkish counterpart, can be expected to prevent any radical Islamist takeover and press for the continuation of the peace treaty with Israel and the close ties it has with U.S. armed forces.

At the other end of the possible spectrum of Egyptian development lies not Iran, but Pakistan. Like Turkey, its military is the strongest institution in the country, but the central government is weak and corruption is endemic at all levels. Most problematic, the weakness of the Pakistani state, as well as the lack of trust between American and Pakistani officials, has been a catalyst for Pakistanís dual role as a crucial ally in the war in Afghanistan, even as it supports the Taliban and other jihadis there.

Our capacity to influence events in Egypt in the near term is limited, and the Egyptian people will decide their nationís fate. We should not shy away from supporting the democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people for fear of what the country may become, rather we should devote ourselves to the success of that democracy and ensure that Egypt does not replace one autocracy with another, theocratic or otherwise. Congress and the president must stand ready to help Egypt as it begins a new chapter in its 5,000 year history.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) serves on the Intelligence Committee, as well as the Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations.

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