Denial: Also a River in Egypt

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According to George W. Bush, Egypt is making progress toward "greater political openness." That's, um, not true.

I'm not sure there's very much the US government can or should do, in practice, to push Egypt into becoming a democracy. And, certainly, I grasp the pragmatic need to get along with governments willing to get along with us. But I don't really understand why this need is pragmatically construed as the need to lie and pretend to believe that Hosni Mubarak is moving his country toward democracy when everyone knows that he's cracking down on the opposition and trying to install his son as the next pharaoh. The schizophrenia of American policy -- invading Iraq to spread the flame of democracy, and then spinning on Mubarak's behalf in Cairo; between demonizing Hugo Chavez as a totalitarian menace and then hanging out with Saudi officials at the president's vacation home -- is really absurd.

The idea that these tin pot dictators would somehow turn on us if we didn't kiss their assess doesn't hold much water. We need Saudi oil, and the Saudis need our money. We have interests that can be advanced through collaboration with the government of Egypt and the government of Egypt has interests that can be advanced through cooperation with our government. The pretense that every country we have a dispute with is run by the New Hitler while every country we opportunistically ally with is run by a Bold Reformer is incredibly dumb and something a grownup country ought to be able to move past.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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