(photo credit: )
On governing Egypt
Sir, – Regarding “White House encouraged Mubarak to say
current term will be his last” (February 1), we must remember one fundamental
truth: Elections are not the first step toward democracy, but the final
It is extremely dangerous to force elections on the basis of an
artificial timetable. Elections may accomplish nothing unless a society already
has in place stable institutions, including an independent judiciary, free
press, respect for the rule of law and a knowledgeable electorate.
all, there must be general agreement by all participants that losers will accept
the will of the people rather than seek to overturn the results through
During my time in the Coalition Provisional Authority’s
“Governance Office,” we provided democracy training throughout Iraq. We worked
for many months to set the stage for a successful election – meeting with
citizen groups to explain the fundamentals of a democratic society, and helping
build community and civil rights organizations.
This was necessary
because, contrary to the assertion that Iraq had a democratic tradition, the
majority of Iraqis had yet to be born the last time a truly free election took
Egypt finds itself in the same situation today.
efforts, nearly seven years after that election, it remains to be seen whether
Iraq will develop into a free society or sink back into repression and
internecine violence. Closer to home, Hamas in Gaza and Hizbullah in Lebanon
show what can happen when parties not committed to the peaceful rule of law
participate in elections without proper safeguards rather than being
marginalized and excluded from the process.
Will we witness similar
results if the Muslim Brotherhood participates in the upcoming Egyptian
election? We must hope that a transition of power will be relatively peaceful.
The true test of a democracy is not whether a single election takes place, but
whether it is followed by an equally free election.EFRAIM A. COHEN
The writer is a senior fellow at Bar-Ilan University’s Center
for International Communication and a former US diplomat
Sir, – A valuable aid
to reflection upon the current Egyptian riots was long ago provided by John
Stuart Mill in the opening chapter of On Liberty (1859): “Despotism is a
legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be
their improvement, and the means justified by actually effecting that end.
Liberty, as a principle, has no application to any state of things anterior to
the time when mankind have become capable of being improved by free and equal
Until then, there is nothing for them but simple obedience to
an Akbar or a Charlemagne, if they are so fortunate as to find
Sir, – Lord Palmerston, a
mid-19th century English prime minister, said more or less the following:
Nations have neither permanent friends nor permanent enemies, only permanent
President Obama’s pressure on Hosni Mubarak to step down and
Jimmy Carter’s abandonment of the Shah of Iran are modern examples. The
US-Israel relationship is not so sacrosanct, meaning it too could fall victim to
Palmerston’s law.RICHARD JACOBS
He can stay here Sir, – Mike
Huckabee, historically a true friend of Israel, at great political risk pointed
out when interviewed by The Jerusalem Post (“Huckabee to ‘Post’: After Egypt, US
must reassure allies it won’t abandon them,” February 2) that “land for peace”
has proven only to invite more rockets.
He sees the continuation of this
doctrine as the “ultimate definition of insanity.”
If the US doesn’t want
Huckabee for president, maybe Israel can have him for prime