The Department of Government
The Department of Government
Democracy Prevention

Democracy Prevention: The Politics of the U.S.-Egyptian Alliance

Jason Brownlee is the Department of Government’s leading scholar of Middle East politics. His latest book continues his research into authoritarianism with a focus on U.S.-Egyptian relations. Democracy Prevention: The Politics of the U.S.-Egyptian Alliance was published on the heels of a popular revolt that forced long-ruling Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to resign on February 11, 2011. U.S. President Barack Obama hailed the victory of peaceful demonstrators in the heart of the Arab World. But Washington was late to endorse democracy – for decades the United States favored Egypt's rulers over its people. Since 1979, the United States had provided the Egyptian regime more than $60 billion in aid and immeasurable political support to secure its main interests in the region: Israeli security and strong relations with Persian Gulf oil producers. During the Egyptian uprising, the White House did not promote popular sovereignty but instead backed an "orderly transition" to one of Mubarak's cronies. Even after protesters derailed that plan, the anti-democratic U.S.-Egyptian alliance continued. Using untapped primary materials, this book helps explain why authoritarianism has persisted in Egypt with American support, even as policy makers claim to encourage democratic change.

"If 'the economy, stupid' explains voting behavior in the United States, then 'the security, stupid' explains why and how the United States co-constituted and sustained the long rule of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. In the process of tracing the U.S.-Egyptian relationship since 1979, Jason Brownlee helps us understand three important issues: why dictators endure; why the United States is not, even after the Cold War, always a champion of democratic change; and why the fall of dictators does not always or easily translate into the rise of democracy." - Valerie Bunce, Aaron Binenkorb Professor of International Studies and Professor of Government, Cornell University

"A searching study on a neglected topic in post-Cold War U.S. foreign policy—United States support for modern day 'friendly tyrants.' Brownlee's probing approach takes the reader behind the veil of U.S. pro-democracy rhetoric to the realities of policy choices and compromises. The picture he paints is as sobering as it is revealing." - Thomas Carothers, Vice President for Studies, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

"In this carefully researched and strongly argued book, Jason Brownlee examines the strain in American policy toward Egypt between hard strategic interests and the more idealistic goal of promoting democracy. He shows convincingly that from the time of the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement in 1979 onward, strategic interests have been at the core of the relationship, even during the brief period when George W. Bush was promoting his 'democracy agenda' in 2005. One might expect that in the aftermath of the Egyptian uprising in January 2011 that ousted Husni Mubarak that things might change, but Brownlee cautions that elites on both sides of the U.S.-Egyptian relationship are likely to try to limit the impact of Egypt's democratic turn. I hope he is wrong, but his pessimistic conclusion is worth bearing in mind." - William B. Quandt, Professor of Politics, University of Virginia

“Thoroughly researched and filled with important and original insights, Brownlee’s impressive study investigates American-Egyptian relations over three decades and shines a bright light on the contribution of that relationship to the persistence of authoritarianism in Egypt. Although Brownlee’s focus is on Egypt, his book is a must-read for all concerned with the connection between U.S. Middle East policy and the struggle for democracy in the Arab world. A very important book by a leading American scholar of Egyptian and Arab politics.” - Mark Tessler, University of Michigan

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