What do Egyptians want of us? A recent Middle East poll showed that most Middle Easterners want more aid and less interference. Can Egypt, a society civilized for more than 5000 years, really believe we can settle for that. The earliest markets were based on the maxim 'you can't get something for nothing'. Many Egyptians aren’t even very enthusiastic for Democracy, fearing it would be a one man, one vote, one time affair leaving the MB in charge. They would rather wait until a more secular opposition develops.
Which brings us to Ayman Nour, prisoner #1387. Under the Egyptian Constitution 50 members are required to form a viable political party. Nour had over 5000 special powers of attorney to verify the 50 member requirement. So in 2004 the Tomorrow Party was born. 89 days later Nour was arrested for allegedly forging some of those documents. Safely assuming he did not forge 4951 of them one has to ask why forge any? Especially those of his father's, his wife’s, and his own. Egyptians understand that the charges were ridiculous to the point of making the government look foolish. That he was set up Mr. Nour knows, what he doesn't is why. In a letter from prison he speculates:
But no one, including myself, is sure why precisely I've been jailed. Many pointed to a brief meeting I had with Madeleine Albright a few hours before my arrest. Am I counted as a U.S. agent for brushing shoulders with a foreign dignitary who is out of office? Some sarcastically say that the Egyptian government "fired" me for being too ambitious. Could the government not bear my calls for constitutional reforms? Yet another line of speculation ties my arrest to an interview I gave to Al Horra TV, in which I declared that my party would run in parliamentary elections in 2005; I also called for a constitutional amendment to allow any Egyptian to run for president. Did I take democracy too seriously?
Should the U.S. pressure Egypt to right this wrong? On the face of it the answer is obvious. If we really support Democratic movements as George Bush has stated numerous times then we must support Ayman Nour. But this is the Middle East. When Codoleezza Rice expressed "deep concerns about Nour's detention some of his supporters bristled at American interference. As today’s only Super Power any action we take will be seen as heavy handed and arrogant, regardless of how many secretly support our actions. So what others 'feel' about us should be of no great concern to us but any actions we take vis-a-vis Mr. Nour has to take into account how it affects him. We do after all want to help not hinder him. I ask my Egyptian Blogger friends what do they believe we should do for Mr. Nour and for Egypt overall. Should we make some of the billions of dollars in aid contingent on Mr. Nour being freed? Contingent on Democratic or economic reforms? Or should we shut up and just give more money?. Before choosing one of those two choices I will remind my Egyptian friends of a third and increasingly popular choice, popular at least in America. We keep our money and let Egypt fend for itself.