Culturally, Egyptians value winning over progressing. We are a society with a “winner-take-all” mentality; thus, we tend to work on winning all our battles. However, since the obsession with winning cannot always be realized (by our country or by any other country), we tend to lose many battles that we could have easily won had we considered other options, such as adopting a “policy of containment”. The reason behind our nation’s slow progress in many fields is our insistence on winning all our challenges.
The Egyptian State tends to define our problems and work on tackling them within the shortest possible timeframe. Yet given the number and magnitude of our challenges, it is almost impossible to address all problems simultaneously and with equal efficiency, whereas working to reduce their impact over time, allowing it to diminish, is sometimes a much better strategy than confronting all challenges and losing significant battles.
For the last few years, the Egyptian State has been applying a very intense confrontational strategy in each of its battles with all of its opponents, with the intention of winning them all. This approach has led to a diffusion of our competence, prolonging battles that we had thought would be over in a shorter time and, in some cases, exhausting our efforts in the battlefield. The result is that many Egyptians have lost hope in resolving some of our challenges and no longer have confidence in the Egyptian government that had initially promised them rapid solutions.
Egypt’s present largest crisis, terrorism, often begins with the expanding number of extremists willing to commit terrorist crimes; if we worked on defusing those extremists in the first place, we would see less terrorism (having said that, the only viable option for dealing with those who actually commit crimes is military and security confrontation). Many other Arab governments have achieved better results in the battle against terrorism by applying a constructive, comprehending strategy.
The Egyptian State’s recent handling of Marshal Ahmed Shafik, former Prime Minister and potential presidential candidate in Egypt’s 2018 presidential election, is one of the very few examples where the State has managed (so far) to contain the crisis and completely defuse a potentially serious problem. Nevertheless, the Egyptian State is not too happy with applying the same method in dealing with other politicians, believing that giving them a free reign will drag down the State. We simply need to apply the tactics that have proven to be successful to our remaining unsolved problems.
Obviously, any government would prefer to get rid of its challenges once and for all! But since this is not always feasible, it could be more advisable to contain some of these challenges – especially in the case of nations, such as Egypt, that face numerous and intense problems, which keep growing in both size and magnitude. By stretching ourselves to tackle many problems at once, we have enabled our enemies to capitalize on the State’s competence deficit and allowed them to penetrate Egyptian society, either with their views or with terrorist activity. By initially working on better defining and prioritizing our challenges, we could obtain better results.
What really matters in politics is mobilizing citizens around the State’s mission. Giving room to the State’s opponents to express their opinions while working on changing their outlooks is certainly a much better approach than working on expanding the State’s opponents and enemies – and eventually living with incremental challenges. Politics is about compromise. There is no shame in expressing a degree of flexibility in our efforts to achieve our goals. The Egyptian State needs to advance its political strategy by being more comprehending and less confrontational.