Wall Street Journal Calls Attacks on NGOs ‘Oldest Ruse in Authoritarian Politics’

Egypt Spirals Down
The Wall Street Journal

If Egypt’s military-led government wants to lose $1.5 billion in annual U.S. aid, it should keep up its current attacks on nongovernment institutions and their American employees. Nothing will sour U.S. Congressional and public support faster.

Word leaked over the weekend that Egypt’s justice ministry has referred dozens of individuals, including several Americans, on criminal charges of illegally influencing Egyptian politics. Reports in the Egyptian press say the targets include the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute and other groups that receive U.S. funds to promote civil society and freedom in countries around the world.

One of the Americans who has been blocked from leaving Egypt and may be charged is Sam LaHood—the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood—who works for the Republican Institute in Cairo.

The sad irony is that these groups are the good guys—people trying to encourage a free press, freedom to worship and political tolerance. Yet the military government can’t seem to understand its own interest in allowing the development of political voices other than the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists.

The government is trying to court public support by trumping up a case against “foreign influence,” especially Americans. This is the oldest ruse in authoritarian politics. If it stays on this path, the military leadership will lose U.S. money and support and find itself weaker against the rise of political Islam. The Muslim Brothers could even do their reputation some good by defending the NGOs.

A year ago many hoped that Egypt’s military might be able to midwife a transition to more representative politics. Instead, it seems to have learned nothing from Hosni Mubarak’s fall.

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