Obama’s Egypt Test: Just What Is ‘Democracy,’ Anyway?


Barack Obama paid his first and still only visit to Egypt in the late spring of 2009. As a new President looking to turn the page on the George W. Bush era, he traveled to Cairo to deliver an address meant to repair America’s relationship with the Muslim world. One subject he covered in the June 1 speech at Cairo University was America’s controversial promotion of democracy in the region. While no country should impose its values on another, Obama said — an implicit acknowledgment that the Iraq war had been viewed that way — he pledged to strongly support existing democratic governments.

But Obama was also careful to note that democracy is about more than casting votes: “We will welcome all elected, peaceful governments — provided they govern with respect for all their people,” Obama explained. “Elections alone do not make true democracy.”

Four years later, those words have…

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