THE BLOG
12/02/2014 05:51 pm ET Updated Feb 01, 2015

The Chaos in Egypt Tests U.S. Foreign Policy in the Muslim World

There are more questions than answers following the call by the Egyptian ultra-conservative Islamist Salafist Front for national protests to not only impose Islamic identity, but also to oppose the army's control of the political and economic decisions in the country. The call came at a critical time as Egypt embraces for protests throughout the country.

Against this backdrop, the United States government finds itself in an awkward political position in deciding whether to issue a statement warning the Egyptian government not to use deadly force against the protestors. How could it when the U.S. is coming under strong criticism from abroad following the grand jury's decision in Ferguson, Missouri not to indict Darren Wilson in the shooting of unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown? As the U.S. judges and issues statement against other countries when basic human rights (freedom of speech, assembly, religion, etc...) are challenged, it is relevant that many across the globe are also looking at us -- and judging as well, particularly how well we measure up to our own proud rhetoric about freedom, right to protest, and the rule of law. Needless to say, the criticism the United States is receiving from abroad touches on controversial, all-too-familiar domestic themes: racism, inequality, segregation, and police brutality.

While the Egyptian government has been using deadly force to quell supporters of the democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, overthrown in a military coup, the call by ultra-conservative Islamist Salafist Front would undoubtedly raise more tensions. Of interest is whether the Muslim Brotherhood, which decided to support the protests, would return to political violence as it once did. Should this become the case, I'll argue the turmoil in Egypt will spill over its boarders adding to the chaos and mayhem to an already volatile region. Equally important, the Egyptian military government has adopted anti-terrorism measures that could and would lead to the reestablishment of police state approach to governance. As a result, the social fabric in the most populated country in the Muslim world, Egypt, will find itself at a crossroads whether to resort to violence to achieve its objectives: reinstatement of the democratically elected president, Mr. Morsi, or plunge into further anarchy, chaos, and instability with no end in sight.

These dynamics are compelling the U.S. government to address two fundamental questions: One, will the chaos in Egypt jeopardize the treaty of Camp David? Two, will U.S. silence over the atrocities committed by the Egyptian security apparatus highlight its foreign policy double standard? The answer is anybody's guess as the mounting foreign criticism over Ferguson gives the U.S. a taste of its own medicine.

The United States has already undermined its credibility when it turned a blind eye on the military coup in Egypt that ousted the only democratically elected president. After all, the U.S. has been supporting dictators of the likes of Hosni Mubarak; a support that contributed to the increased anti-U.S. sentiment across the Muslim world. And how could the United States dictate to the rest of the world what to do and how to behave while doing the very opposite? While America depicts itself as a beacon of freedom, democracy, and other universal values; quite obviously the only universal value is power. The events in Ferguson, airstrikes on ISIS in Iraq, ongoing chaos in Syria, turmoil in Libya, brutal crackdown of Egyptian security services on protesters, the paralysis of our Congress, and the sagging economy -- all these should invite thoughts about where our country is bound. What will become of the United States in the next 15 or 20 years? If we are to prevail abroad, we must fix our country first.

To complicate matters further, the Egyptian high Court in Cairo dropped charges against the ousted president, Hosni Mubarak over the killing of protesters during the 2011 demonstrations at Tahrir Square. More than ever, Egypt will be divided between those who want democracy through other means than free and fair elections and those who have lost faith in the principles of democracy. The reality, as the case of the military coup demonstrated, no party will benefit from this division; thus, chaos will continue to have serious consequences not only on Egypt, but also the greater Middle East and U.S. interests in the region. I wonder whether political violence and arms conflicts taking place in most Arab countries post Arab Spring revolutions suggest that the prospect for democracy and upholding non-violence approach to domestic challenges is a fantasy.

Alas, younger Arab generations are now able to perceive the difference between noble American principles and actual U.S. policies in the region; policies that are marked by double standards and ambiguity. If the U.S. is to regain the respect of the world; it ought to reflect on its own chaos at home before telling others what to do or how to behave.