Thursday, February 10, 2011

Learning the Future Tense

Nicholas Kristof, a NYT columinist and extremely intelligent foreign correspondent who is very familiar with the Third World, has a column today that hits the nail on the head when it comes to Egypt and America.  Bottom line is this: "To many Egyptians, the U.S. is conspiring with the regime to push only cosmetic reforms while keeping the basic structure in power. That’s creating profound ill will."

It's well worth reading the entire column here, but here are the final paragraphs:
These are Egypt’s problems to work out, not America’s. But whatever message we’re trying to send, the one that is coming through is that we continue to embrace the existing order, and that could taint our future relations with Egypt for many years to come.

Many years ago, when I studied Arabic intensively at the American University in Cairo, I was bewildered initially because for the first couple of months I learned only the past tense. That’s the basic tense in Arabic, and so in any Arabic conversation I was locked into the past.

The Obama administration seems equally caught in the past, in ways that undermine the secular pro-Western forces that are Egypt’s best hope. I hope the White House learns the future tense.

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