The organization of what are known as “popular-diplomacy” teams to accompany President Al Sisi during each of his visits to the United States leads us to think that the Egyptian state actually believes that this kind of propaganda works! Since everyone (in both countries) understands that this initiative is arranged by the state’s close allies, can these trips truly strengthen Egypt-U.S. relations? The fact that “popular-diplomacy” teams are fully financed by the state’s affiliates means that millions of Egyptians could easily be recruited to join them; therefore, they are not a reflection of the president’s popularity.
Publicity is a fundamental promotional tool. It is a field that has progressed substantially over the past decades, especially after the advent of the social media that has privileged young citizens who are better skilled in the use of this technology. However, this tool needs special talents who know how to choose the most suitable medium for each targeted audience! In the present era, “popular-diplomacy” delegations made up of opportunistic, loud-voiced people who are driven by self-interest and known for their limited substance and low credibility are definitely not the best envoys to boost the president’s status.
In Egypt, sadly, we tend to mix fact and fiction. Both are probably necessary to govern our country – but we need to understand when it is essential to present the facts and when fiction alone can do the job. By insisting that a “popular-diplomacy” team accompany President Al Sisi on his trips to the United States, the Egyptian state is demonstrating its keenness to use a fake tool to address American decision-makers –who know more about our country than any “popular diplomacy” team does.
The Egyptian state is eager to prove to the American people that Al Sisi is a popular president (although Americans themselves are currently ruled by a president who lost the popular vote in the recent presidential elections). Nonetheless, the state believes that the type of domestic propaganda that is heavily used in Egypt will succeed in influencing U.S. citizens, or will at least neutralize the effect of the anti-Sisi demonstrations that are often organized by the Muslim Brotherhood; it does not realize that these propagandists are in fact undermining the president’s mission.
The Egyptian state is at a disadvantage with American scholars and writers who constitute an essential pillar of the American decision-making process; the great majority of these scholars and writers advocate about the absence of democracy in Egypt, to the great displeasure of our government. The artificial actions and phony behavior of “popular-diplomacy” teams – and the absence of true progress in the political field – only serve to reinforce the argument of these scholars and writers, giving rise to the numerous critical articles that welcomed President Al Sisi, and that will certainly influence decision-makers sooner or later.
Furthermore, decisions and policies between the two countries are not based on listening to propagandists express their happiness with the president; they are based on comprehensive research and are often planned and made prior to official presidential visits. The United States and the western world monitor Egypt very carefully and know what is actually happening on the ground. What really matters to them is the ability of Al Sisi, as a leader, to deliver on the internal front, within our country.
Egypt is facing many obvious challenges of which the entire world is fully aware. Nevertheless, we only admit to the terrorist challenge and continue to deny the existence of internal political struggles that we need to address. The United States, and many other countries, expect President Al Sisi to establish a ruling mechanism that allows conflicting political parties to live in harmony and enables the smooth transfer of power – so far, Egypt has not taken a single step in this direction. We need to make genuine changes that are credible to other nations; a few hundred noisy citizens won’t be of any added value.