We need the Marshall plan for Egypt that wasn’t ready for Iraq

What is really happening in Egypt? And why? The country was close to collapse before the people took to the streets. Inflation has risen over 40% in the last three yearsunemployment is rising, and the world food programme reports that almost 20% of its population live under the poverty line. Egypt was cracking under the weight of rocketing food prices, people were angry and Mubarak was the legitimate target.

But simply to remove Mubarak and “leave Egypt alone”, as Simon Jenkins argued this week would be as much a dereliction of duty as neglecting to rebuild Iraq after the tanks had removed Saddam Hussein. What has history taught us, if not that the way to provide a stable democratic government is not to leave a country on its knees, but to stretch out our hand and help it to its feet?

The connection has been often been made with the 1989 uprisings in Eastern Europe, but this is misleading. No matter how paranoid our vision of Islam may be, countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan are separate entities that have no overarching common idealogical enemy as the Soviet Union was.

Rather, we should be looking at how another recession started in the US (in 1929) affected the world. Then, unstable countries suffocated on their debt, were powerless to act as banks collapsed, unemployment rose and food prices rose, leading to the instability and helplessness that laid the grounds for extremism to rise in 1933. The similarities are striking. If the geographical focus has shifted from  central Europe to southern Europe and the Middle East.

The historical exemplar should be the Marshall Plan, and the government and relief in occupied areas (GARIOA) that freely gave Europe and Japan the means to get back to their feet. This altruism after the second world war is the one of the few examples of intervention leading to stable government and the flourishing of democracy.

After so much blood on our hands from pushing the region from one post to another, walking away from the Middle East may seem like a logical step; but it would also be the cowardly one. Let’s be brave enough to swallow our pride, accept our mistakes and, instead of providing the gun, offer the real tangible support of a friend.

The question is: with our own wealth being squeezed, will we realise that the only way to provide long term stability to the Middle East is to put into place the structural and industrial practices that will ultimately lead to long term self reliance of these soon to be emerging democracies?

Ranjit Sidhu blogs here.

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2 Responses to “We need the Marshall plan for Egypt that wasn’t ready for Iraq”

  1. Tania Funston says:

    Thats a good suggestion. I wish I thought there was any likelihood of any of our leaders going in that direction

  2. James Jacobs says:

    We shouldn’t be too hasty just to assume that this is all going to end happily ever after though. A while ago (1 week ago, but that seems a while ago in these events) I questioned weather 2011 would be another 1848: a ‘year of revolutions’. Whilst there was real change that occurred in 1848, the outcomes where not always fully democratic, even partially: In France, for example, Napoleon III was by no means a man elected by the people.

    Lets not be too hasty in the assumption that the regimes that will replace these will be tolerant, democratic and liberal.

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