Egyptian Foreign Relations: Policies vs. Diplomacy!

Learning of the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs’ meeting with a number of Egyptian journalists to discuss foreign policy was a positive sign of change in the official attitude toward listening to other people’s perspectives. Nevertheless, the fact that the minister met only with journalists affiliated to the State, who have no clue about international political dynamics and who continuously praise the ruling regime brought us back to square one! The Egyptian State is, of course, fully entitled to articulate its foreign policy, but holding discussions with people who share the same viewpoints won’t help Egypt to be better understood by other nations!

Egypt’s foreign policy and diplomacy stances have been subjected to heavy criticism by many countries and by the international media. In fact, because we often perceive universal dynamics from our own narrow perspective, our foreign policy has been heavily geared toward convincing the world of issues that lack substance and practical solutions. Whereas we constantly wish to be present at all regional events, we don’t give any thought to what our contribution to the challenges at hand will be, contenting ourselves with throwing the famous conspiracy allegation at nations that differ with us.

Foreign policies and diplomacy are meant to serve and affect one another, but this necessitates the establishment of a two-way communication channel in which diplomats offer their comprehensive knowledge and recommendations to their ministry; which then articulates its foreign policy based on their accumulative experiences. Unfortunately, since the Egyptian state only uses a single top-down channel (in all areas of government, inclusive of foreign affairs), its diplomats often find themselves in the position of defending policies that they are not in harmony with and have taken no part in articulating.

Egypt’s regional advantage has been dwindling since the 2011 revolution! Sadly, many Egyptians falsely blame this on the revolution. Actually, the manner in which we articulate our foreign policy has contributed to this decline (insisting that we are always right, becoming excited about issues that we like, imagining that repeating our arguments endlessly will persuade other nations to endorse our policies and our habit of ignoring others’ perspectives – including those of persons who work in the field of diplomacy). Furthermore, we become animated when other nations endorse our policies, but we tend to lend a deaf ear to any constructive comments they may make.

Contrary to what we believe, many Arab and Western nations would like to support Egypt’s efforts to progress – but they can only do so if we adopt sensible policies. Formulating our entire foreign policy within the framework of a single challenge (terrorism) and demanding that the entire world endorse our perspective has limited our capacity to assess other challenges reasonably and has prevented us from recognizing our diplomatic failures. Moreover, the continued surfacing of Egyptian terrorist groups and activity is reason enough to question the efficacy of our present policies.

The Egyptian State’s complete control of domestic media prevents it from understanding the dynamic of freedom of expression in other parts of the world. Meanwhile, our unsubstantiated domestic political activities have all too often triggered international media to report what is truly happening in Egypt. The current ruling regime is struggling to understand Western countries’ altered attitudes toward our country, given their previous pragmatic approach toward Egypt and their support of the policies formulated during Mubarak’s rule.

Actually, Egyptian diplomacy is not lacking in capability; our diplomats have held, and continue to hold, many high-ranking international positions, including the post of Secretary General of the United Nations and senior positions in many other reputable international organizations. Our diplomacy lacks clear vision and direction, and the knowledge of such capable diplomats could contribute to making it more rational. However, our diplomatic capabilities are seriously constrained because they are framed within the State’s ‘single perspective policy’. Without question, many of our challenges could be better resolved if our diplomats were brought substantially closer to the decision-makers and thus enabled to contribute to the formulation of truly effective policies.

Because it deals with the entire universe using the Egyptian domestic mindset, without realizing that the ignorance of political dynamics, so widespread in Egypt, does not exist outside our borders, the Egyptian government has managed to place itself in a unique and isolated position. Our government is thus unable to win over other key nations – or the foreign media – to the Egyptian viewpoints on most issues. We tend to insist on our established policies – but we don’t want to bear their consequences. To compensate for this erroneous approach, the Egyptian government has prolonged its relationships with nations that have no universal influence – and little in common with Egypt.


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