Americans are able to muddle forward in this naive fantasy that their country is not an enemy of democracy because questions directly challenging that fantasy are rarely posed. Al Jazeera's Shihab Rattansi does a great job questioning US press secretary PJ Crowley. It would be great if he could interview Barack Obama. Unlike Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who has given hours and hours of interviews to hostile western news organizations, we will never see Barack Obama stand for even 15 minutes of questioning from anyone like Rattansi.
A great excerpt begins at 5:42.
Shihab Rattansi: But you have more leverage than that. Surely you can think of, the President or the Secretary of State can speak to Mr. Mubarak and say: "Call off your repressive security forces, now begin a transition to true democracy and stop torturing people while you're at it."
PJ Crowley: But again, you're casting this in zero sum terms and I reject that. We respect what Egypt contributes to the region. It is a stabilizing force. It has made its own peace with Israel and is pursuing normal relations with Israel. We think that's important. We think that's a model that the region should adopt broadly speaking. At the same time we recognize that Egypt, Tunisia, other countries do need to reform. They do need to respond to the needs of their people and we encourage that reform and we are contributing across the board. Across the region to that reform.
Shihab Rattansi: Finally there must be a discussion that if in a time of austerity a repressive client regime can't guarantee stability for the billions of dollars Washington is spending, what's the point of all this expenditure?
PJ Crowley: Well we have a, Egypt is an ally and we have, rely on Egypt as an ally to be a stabilizing force in the region and that's exactly what they are and we contribute in terms of military and security assistance to help Egypt because that has benefits across the region as a whole
Shihab Rattansi: Because democracy would be destabilizing to the region wouldn't it?
PJ Crowley: Well again, we want to see the region reform. We believe that as countries develop, as countries prosper, they are likely to become more democratic. We want to see those kinds of reforms. We want to see greater political economic and social opportunity. And we are
Shihab Rattansi: So Egypt's not ready for democracy?
PJ Crowley: We are investing in that. But again, how these countries develop will be on a case-by-case basis. This will not be a cookie-cutter approach for all of the Middle East. We have to evaluate the dynamic in Egypt and look for ways to contribute to that just as we look individually at the dynamic that is happening in Tunisia or other countries.