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Interesting Article: Community Development and the Middle East- Why Egypt?
Published:January 17th, 2010 20:52 EST
Community Development and the Middle East - Why Egypt?
By Prince Nelson Balina Omukisa Yiga
How is community development in the Middle East important to the U.S.? Why is it particularly crucial to focus on Egypt? According to the South African Development Cooperation, community development is action that helps people to recognize and develop their ability and potential to organize themselves to respond to problems and needs, which they share. And these are social services, health services, secure stability, communal development and education to mention but a few.
Community development supports the establishment of strong communities that control and use assets to promote social justice and help improve the quality of community life. It also enables community and public agencies to work together, to improve the quality of government. Community development in the Middle East is important to the U.S for many reasons.
There is no doubt that the United States has a lot of interest in the Middle East, arguably more than in any other part of the world. For strategic reasons, it has forces in both Israel and the Arab world, particularly Saudi Arabia, one of its strongest allies, creating good public relations in such a region can gain the U.S allies in case a security threat breaks out in that part of the world. A country like Israel is known for its Great War weaponry, and the people to execute any military operation. For instance, the Mossad, National Intelligence Agency of Israel " has a high profile in executing intelligence missions.
It has been argued that extremism has found fertile ground in the Middle East, mainly because the majority of the population is poor and deprived of the basic human amenities. It is because of the poverty that most of the young population does not attend schools that teach western education, but rather they go to madarast " (define this term too) for religious education. It is argued that community development in the Middle East, will allow younger generations of people in this area to work together and move past the old feuds that have excerbacated turmoil in the region. Community development will take the form of building western schools in the region that will indoctrinate the younger ones with U.S or western values. (The way you have expressed this last sentence would not be at all a popular sentiment for Middle Eastern young people!)
The US has its forces in the Middle East as a move to deter terrorism (That may be the political " excuse; but the real military and economic strategic reasons are far more complicated). The failure of the U.S to champion community development activities in this region could spell danger to its forces there. It`s known that the U.S has army bases in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and in these areas the USA has participated in many community projects. On September 14, 1990, then President George H.W. Bush asked Congress to transfer Egypt`s $6.7 billion military debt from the Federal Financing Bank of the Treasury Department to the Department of Defense, and to cancel the debt. President Bush was rewarding Egypt for cooperating with the Desert Shield operations against the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and was relieving Egypt of part of its debt repayment burden.
The United States uses the community development approach as part of its carrot and stick diplomatic policy. That is to say, it uses force to comb out the terrorists and community development to win over the neutrals or the future extremists. If this were not the case, then so many people would hate the U.S for its actions. (They do anyway!) Countries like Saudi Arabia continue to be key U.S allies, despite of what is perceived by so many people in the region to be the desire of the United States to conquer territories in the region in pretext of fighting terrorism.
However, scholars have argued that for the last seven years or so that the U.S has neglected the Middle East and focused on Iraq. Because of this situation, its friendship with Israel has gone down the drain and insurgents have been on the loose in the region threatening U.S interests. Even the relations with Egypt have not been very good recently.
Communal Association with security agencies worldwide is exceptionally an advantage to stability, social services and hospitality.
In early churches in the Catholic world, communities were more protected; they reported to governments, irrespective of who was being helped at their centers. We still see this kind of togetherness in the Catholic community where orphans, immigrants, knowledge seekers, and asylees run to those community centers. This concept spread like wildfire all over the world, tempting many believers to think that Catholicism is the right path to Godliness, since they had been helped with their problems. And as a result, they in turn registered a number of converts who later gave back financially to the church.
In the case of the Hands Along the Nile Development Services, and other charitable organizations around the world with same causes, many of these services can be revived in the world where Catholic charitable principles were not extended. As many governments become corrupt and greedy, hindering donations from good Samaritans around the globe, organizations like Hands Along the Nile Development Services can provide services to communities around the Arab world. They can help other nations to better understand the culture, the religions, the people, the love and all that exists in that part of the world about which many Americans are uninformed.
On the other side of the coin, lawlessness can be reduced. Because communal programs are enhanced; health care is given with no attachments, social services like counseling to children after wars, women maternity care, educational programs for the youth are essential. After hour programs which can help into the stabilizing of areas that are vulnerable to children being recruited into insurgents, war related activities, robbery acts and or drugs can be a helpful route. Spiritual development, modernizing, promotion and preservation of the rich Arab culture spoken about in the Bible, the Koran, and the ancient books and all around the world, can be extended to those people who have the quest to learn more about the people who are now perceived as terrorists to many people in the west.
In the context of peace building and conflict resolution, organizations like Hands Along the Nile Development Services can be an instrumental organ, in the sense that in order for the organization to exist, there should be community cooperation, peace and security. Therefore, intelligence gatherings internally can help authorities know what would be a problem in the processing of these services. Because communities benefit from the services offered, it is believed that few or no security activities will occur, bringing stability to those regions and helping the United States to focus on helping these organizations develop, rather than focusing and spending more funds on security.
Why focus on Egypt? Egypt is a symbol in the Arab World, and although it is a fragile democracy, it is one that stands to be respected in the region. Egypt`s culture interacts with so many other cultures around the Arab world. African descendants and the Egyptian outwit many other histories not to mention the wonders of the world that baffle engineers around the world. Uganda, a country of the origin of the mighty Nile River, has same issues and community problems as Egypt. And, other nations who have been part and parcel to the entire region. Problems faced in the desert are the same problems faced in the forest regions when it comes to Human sociology, health and services. Egypt should become a key partner with the United States, not only in the area of security that we argue about more, but by means of tourism, in which both countries would profit from the industry. Egypt helps those who visit their country expand their knowledge to other Arab countries about which they never heard, or nations they once thought as bad through the American press or fallacious reporting from biased mediums.
Although Egypt is an influential country in politics of the Arab world, for some reason it has kept a cordial working relationship with the United States. The US has provided assistance to Egypt since 1979 helping it to shape the country`s economic and military strength. The U.S established diplomatic ties with Egypt in 1952, after the U.S supported the Revolutionary Council military coup led by Gamal Abd al-Nasir that overthrew King Faruk and the monarchy. However, the relations soured in 1955, when Egypt established a link with the Soviets and Czechs at the time when the West was parallel with the East in terms of ideological beliefs. It is historically known that during the 1967 Arab-Israel war diplomatic ties had been broken between United States and Egypt in fear that United States was giving direct assistance to Israel. This led to Anwar Al-Sadat who had just become President to expel Soviet advisors an act that brought considerations to bridge the relationship in 1972.
Historically speaking, the United States has always had strong ties with Egypt. One of the most important interests of the U.S. in Egypt has a historic leadership role in the Arab world that would be a good cause for them to further their development. The Gulf Region Politics have all looked upon Egypt as an example in their skills in solving domestic, political and terror problems and the introduction of democratic institutions thus allowing United States to give a node to Egypt`s opposition to terrorism and I do believe this gives Egypt a lead role to convince other Arab states to be cooperative in the war on terrorism. Egypt has a widely recognized experience after its successful win against domestic terrorism that has happened when trials to overthrow the government became a common goal for oppositions
Furthermore, the U.S has picked out Egypt because of its strategic location. The Arab state is in the proximity of Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the gulf and Red Sea. The last two areas are important for controlling the waters and also easy movement in case of moving troops and supplies.
Egypt gained so much experience in the first gulf war and it proved to be valuable when it facilitated its strategic coordination. Knowing the pillars of war in the desert gave the United States a might win. The solidarity brings Egypt to lead a role of a moderate voice in Arab councils that in turn helps the United States when Egypt persuades less moderate Arab States in regards to compromise. Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Palestine negotiators have used Mr. Mubarak as a conduit to have their peace proposals presented to the United States, which in turn brings the solidarity I mentioned above. It is also believed that President Mubarak has at many occasions acted as a counsel to Libya and Sudan presidents respectively. Egypt has a liberal inclination in world politics, compared to so many Middle East states like Syria.
Another important element to consider as to why the U.S has focused on Egypt is that the U.S wants Egypt to lead the role and bring on peace in many areas as in the March 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. This treaty has been a very important one in the US history, in that it helped to maintain close ties with Israel and Egypt. The agreement made Egypt the first Arab country to officially recognize Israel. Before this time, both Israel and Egypt were at war and that in so many ways undermined the United States` foreign policy.