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Posted at 10:22 AM ET, 03/ 9/2011

The shadow of the Iraq War isn't as long as Applebaum claims

By Robert Kagan and Reuel Marc Gerecht

Our friend Anne Applebaum makes a bizarre assertion in her latest blog post. She asks rhetorically, "Why do Egyptian democrats fear they will be stigmatized by U.S. aid?" And the answer she gives is the Iraq war.

Let's start with the fact that Egyptians do not fear they will be stigmatized by U.S. aid. The major complaint from Egyptian opposition groups during the last two years was that the Obama administration significantly reduced the democracy assistance the United States had been providing. Far from being concerned about any stigma attached to U.S. aid, they wanted more of it.

Right now, Egyptians want and need as much assistance from the United States and Europe to aid their economy as possible. Some of that may be direct aid, some of it may be foreign investment, income from tourism, and other means for helping the Egyptian economy through the coming difficult democratic transition. We have not heard of any Egyptian leader, whether in the opposition or in the government, saying they do not want American aid in all these many forms. The big message that Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) brought back from their recent visit to Cairo was that the Egyptian people want U.S. economic help.

As to the reasons why Egyptians may take a dim view of the United States, we are sure that the Iraq war is not at the head of the list.

In the top spot would be three decades of U.S. support for the Mubarak dictatorship. Second place would probably go to U.S. support for Israel. The Iraq War is certainly on the list. But, on the other hand, Iraq has presented a mixed picture. On the one hand, yes, the horrendous execution of the war, the scenes from Abu Ghraib, the sectarian strife -- all these certainly have damaged the U.S. reputation in Egypt and elsewhere. However, and this was the point Charles Krauthammer was making, the fact that Iraqis were holding repeated elections while Egyptians were being held in a repressive political strangulation may have helped convince Egyptians and others around the region that they, too, could have free elections. We can't say how much of a role this played, and it would be simplistic to suggest that elections in Iraq produced a demand for democracy in Egypt.

But it would not be as simplistic as saying that "Egyptian democrats fear they will be stigmatized by U.S. aid" because of the Iraq war. What we are witnessing in the Middle East is a refutation of those who have argued that the very cause of democracy in the region was damaged by the Iraq War. It turns out the Arab peoples seek democracy regardless of how they feel about the United States.

By Robert Kagan and Reuel Marc Gerecht  | March 9, 2011; 10:22 AM ET
Categories:  Kagan and Gerecht  | Tags:  Robert Kagan and Reuel Marc Gerecht  
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I read Charlie's article and he thinks Bush is the reason it all happened. Wrong!!!!

As I recall the Egyptians were very clear about not wanting us involved. If Obama decides to give them more aid, guess who would be fighting him, THE RIGHT WING. As long as the Republicans have the ability to block him, he can't do much.
Their only goal is to make him fail so they can beat him in 2012. Mitch McConnell already told us that.
He needs an opposition he can work with and it just isn't there.

Posted by: guyachs | March 9, 2011 12:39 PM | Report abuse

If Robert Kagan told me the sky was blue, I'd get a second opinion. The man is a hack.

We tried kagans approach...the result...2 disasters.

Posted by: JilliB | March 9, 2011 12:58 PM | Report abuse

While Egyptian opposition forces might see American support for Mubarek as on a par with support for Israel, most see it as the same thing. A larger sample of Muslim thought would center around the coupling of American and Israeli interests and they see the question of American troops (a la Iraq and Afghanistan) in Muslim lands as a consequence of that.

Will democracy last thru more than a couple of elections in Iraq? Maybe. Will functioning democracies emerge from this tumult in the Middle East and North Africa? Again, maybe. Will all be vehemently anti-Israel? Absolutely!

Until American and Israeli interests are seen as de-coupled that view will not change. For our part, after the intentional insult aimed at Biden by this radical right Israeli government, a period of "coolness" is needed...our interests in the entire region demand it.,

Posted by: mfkpadrefan | March 9, 2011 1:04 PM | Report abuse

The same idiots who wanted war on Iraq are now pushing for war on Libya!

So far, not one single country in the area has 'asked' us to intervene. Not even the Saudis, who have been 'reliable' in that sense. Actually even the Israelis have not asked us to intervene.

So, if you think that the shadow of Iraq is not that long, you are obviously incapable of seeing anything.

Posted by: AMviennaVA | March 9, 2011 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Can anyone imagine, after the results thus far of our intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, that anyone else in the region (or the world for that matter) would want the U.S. to interfere in their internal politics? Our lack of foresight and intelligence in the region shows a real lack of intelligence-who is advising our intelligence community and what junk data are they producing? How much are we, the U.S. taxpayers, paying for slanted, unintelligent and just plain wrong analysis?

Posted by: maroon2 | March 9, 2011 2:19 PM | Report abuse

The American media hid the carnage of the Iraq war from the American people and heavily favored Bush administration lies about the reasons for going to war over the truth of the situation. Middle Eastern countries were not subject to such a PR campaign and were aware the war was a brutal act of economic imperialism that took the lives of over one million innocent civilians. They saw America's reaction to its inability to control the narrative in the region which was to bomb the headquarters of Al Jazeera and shoot journalists. Neocons like Kagan and Krauthammer continue to try and put a Cheney-friendly spin on the disastrous war but no one outside the stifling right-wing echo chamber is buying it.

Posted by: dnahatch1 | March 9, 2011 2:47 PM | Report abuse

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