Egypt Presidential Election Results: How the U.S. Should Respond to the Muslim Brotherhood Victory


We may not like Mohammed Morsi's views. We may find the Muslim Brotherhood's agenda to be extremist, even abhorrent. But if we truly believe in democracy, we should give Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood an honest chance to rule Egypt and serve the people should he be elected. 

Democracy can be messy and sometimes, as in the case of the Gaza elections in 2005, the democractic process can backfire and the West's preferred choice does not pan out. But, in this case, we need to learn to deal with the outcome and adapt rather than give up on the democratic process entirely. Should the Muslim Brotherhood be victorious, we must approach them with an earnest offer of partnership and refrain from undercutting them from the beginning, as we have with other democractically elected regimes in the past. Punishing a people for casting their legitimate vote in a free and fair election is not only hypocritical, it is also wrong and can have lasting negative implications (remember the Shah in Iran?).

The Egyptian people see us as a friend for supporting their democratic aspirations during the Revolution a year ago January. Now that they are on the verge of realizing those same aspirations, we must not turn our backs on them lest we lose the popular support of yet another Arab country.

Our history of meddling in the region is deep and painful. The Brotherhood may not be our choice, and may promote a vision that is contrary to ours, but they were the victors and it is their turn now to try to build a future for their country.

With quotes by Brotherhood leaders such as "the object of the Brotherhood is to liberate Jerusalem," and rumors flying flying that the Brotherhood ordered a recent rocket attack on Israel, the temptation will be to resort to our tricks of old, funneling billions to the SCAF to fight the war on terrorism before turning our back and feigning ignorance while the military really uses that money to crackdown on the Brotherhood. 

This strategy worked for the entirety of the four decade Mubarak reign. Now it must stop. The revolution has sparked a political revival. No longer will the Army, and by extension America and the West, be able to duplictiously undercut the Brotherhood. If we do, America will lose the respect and friendship of the Egyptian people faster than Mubarak was overthrown.

America must exhert patience and hope that either the Brotherhood will live up to its recent promises of moderation and inclusiveness or, if not, that the Egyptian people see the light. The beauty of democracy is that if the Brotherhood does not deliver or suceed, they will be replaced. For now however, they have earned the right to govern.

Yes, there are legitimate concerns that the Brotherhood's victory may be detrimental to Egypt's vibrant cultural diversity and tolerance that it has long be known for, and with the Brotherhood in power, Israeli and Egyptian relations will likely be strained. Yet if this election is the first step that the Egyptian people are making on the road to a lasting, open, and vibrant democracy, then it is a step we must support and encourage.

The fear that the Brotherhood will bring about the next installment of the Islamic Revolution is overblown. Egypt under the Brotherhood will not become the next Iran. It won't because Egypt was must more religiously diverse than Iran with some 20 million Coptic Christians making up a strong voting bloc to push back against the Brotherhood. It won't because Egpyt was much more politically diverse than Iran with a strong caucus of liberals, socialists, and moderates that are increasingly politically active. And, it won't because Egypt has too much to lose in terms of foreign investments. In short, Egypt won't be the next Iran, unless we make it so.

It is an unfortunate predicament to be beholden to the will of the Egyptian people rather than a select few military leaders who we can easily manipulate, but America must refrain from doing anything that will turn the people or the Brotherhood against us. However, if Egypt truly wants to commit to the long and difficult road towards democratization and we in the West truly support freedom of expression and the will of the people, it is a choice that we must live with. The Brotherhood is no doubt far from ideal political party. Some have declared it a dangerous choice. But, after a history of oppression, no matter how dark it seems now, a victory for the Brotherhood is nevertheless a move towards a brighter future.

We can hope that Brotherhood will fail, but we should not be the reason they do.