Egypt must find a balance between principles and pragmatism

The Egyptian state believes that abiding by a number of firm political principles that serve the State’s interests is all that is needed when it comes to the conduct of foreign affairs, apparently not realizing that a functioning mechanism is required to achieve progress in the application of these principles. Egypt’s main regional concern is the activity of political Islamists. Nations that share the same concern and that are aware of this threat are good friends of the Egyptian State, whereas countries that are somewhat laid back concerning this issue are considered enemies.

Sadly, Egypt’s relations with most countries in our region are either cold or deteriorating significantly. There is no doubt that the entire region is going through many complex challenges; however, Egypt, as a regional leader, maybe not be expending the right efforts in addressing these challenges. We Egyptians often want the entire world to fully comply with our perspective; when this isn’t the case, we cease our political efforts until other countries adhere to our political proposition.

The Egyptian State has been dealing with a number of regional conflicts through a single principle, backed by a clearly static attitude. The State does not want to engage in any dialogue with other nations unless they endorse our foreign policy outlines upfront. We tend to position our principles in black and white boxes and we expect other nations to make bold decisions, choosing one box or the other. What we truly lack is a dynamic approach that could help us to tackle our political disputes better.

Egypt is not interested in building genuine alliances that entail precise political obligations! We want to establish an understanding regarding a few issues on which we are willing to cooperate while distancing ourselves from other nations concerning issues on which their views don’t match ours exactly. Additionally, we are culturally a sluggish State that tends to stick to its old-fashioned ideas and attitudes, always aiming to explain its static perspective (which lacks any kind of political compromise) to the entire world.

The Egyptian State wants to put political Islamists out of power, period. Yet it does not propose a concrete approach towards creating better alternatives. Whereas we would like the nations in our region to duplicate Egypt’s recent political path, with its pros and cons, these nations prefer to deal with their political Islamist challenges using different methods that better suit their respective political realities – a matter that we refuse to accept.

Egypt’s regional political leverage has been diminishing due to our political stance and disengagement! “This is how we do business,” is a phrase that summarizes the Egyptian political proposition on many diverse occasions. More than any conflict in views, it is our political attitude that leads other nations to distance themselves from Egyptian politics. Meanwhile, our neighbors in the region have adopted a very progressive approach to resolve their challenges in ways that have surprised the entire world.

One of former President Mubarak’s clear political advantages was his ability to develop solid and functioning relations with almost all regional and western nations. Mubarak and his foreign affairs team were quite talented in building strong bonds with Arab leaders, which gave them a clear political edge at the time. This kind of political conduct is sorely missed in Egypt today; we need to work on regaining it.

Egypt has a clear and firm position on many of the political conflicts in our region, but this is not enough; we need to further engage in most of these conflicts because we have the capacity to contribute to their resolution. Our worthy principles must be backed by a pragmatic approach and functioning leadership. This can be realized through the development of a number of initiatives aimed at assisting other nations to resolve their challenges. We won’t necessarily succeed in every battle – but at least we will express our practical political realism and solidarity.




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