Mubarak's Fall Spurs Calls To Rethink U.S. Policy The U.S. has long supported authoritarian leaders in the region in order to ensure stability, but the manner of the Egyptian president's ouster suggests that such regimes may not be stable in the long term. The U.S. may also have to take Arab public opinion more seriously.

Mubarak's Fall Spurs Calls To Rethink U.S. Policy

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NPR's Jackie Northam reports.

JACKIE NORTHAM: Career ambassador Thomas Pickering, now with the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, says this is the time and the opportunity to rethink those decades-old policies.

THOMAS PICKERING: I think it is true that we're beginning to look at stability in a different context. Stability in the short term may be authoritarian regimes, but Egypt has shown that that doesn't hold true for the long term.

NORTHAM: Pickering says what the administration should do immediately is focus on the other autocratic regimes in the region.

PICKERING: What has happened in Egypt helps to reinforce our point to people in governments that haven't reformed that we could call authoritarian in that sense, that it may be the wave of the future and they better think about it.

NORTHAM: But Rashid Khalidi, director of the Middle East Institute of Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs, says those voices were muffled for many years by Mubarak's regime. He says the U.S. would listen to Egyptian officials instead of the people. Khalidi says given the scale of the latest demonstrations, that will have to change.

RASHID KHALIDI: People have feelings about American policies and they have very strong feelings. I think we should take those view seriously. It doesn't mean American policy is going to be determined by Middle Eastern public opinion, but insofar as countries in that region are able to develop credible democracies, the United States is going to have no alternative but to at least respect those opinions, even if it doesn't necessarily agree with them. And this is a new factor.

NORTHAM: Many people in the region don't want the U.S. interfering in their countries' internal affairs, says Dr. James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute. His book, "Arab Voices: What They're Saying to Us and Why It Matters," is based on comprehensive polls taken across the Arab world. Zogby says they do want help building capacity, creating jobs and transparent economies and the like. Zogby says many Arabs want the U.S. to treat them as it treats the Israelis. But he says the foreign policy elite here in the U.S. is too entrenched.

JAMES ZOGBY: We need a revolution here, and we need a revolution in our approach to how we deal with the Middle East. We cannot have a policy where we treat one group of people as the only people who count and the other group of people as pawns we move around on the board.

NORTHAM: David Makovsky, a Middle East specialist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says Israel knows it has solid support in the U.S., but he says some Israelis question why President Obama didn't show more support for Mubarak once the protests started. And, Makovsky says, events in Egypt have spooked many people in Israel.

DAVID MAKOVSKY: They're worried. It's not that the U.S. is going to pull away from the Israelis, it's that the if the U.S. pulls away from the Egyptian and Jordanian governments and the militaries, that distancing will leave the pillars of peace to collapse.

NORTHAM: Jackie Northam, NPR News, Washington.


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