Kent State professor asked to attend National Security Council Meeting

Julie Sickel

Kent State’s Joshua Stacher, assistant professor of political science, was called into Washington, D.C. Monday to attend a National Security Council meeting because of his special knowledge of Egypt.

“I got an e-mail last night inviting me to attend the meeting, and when the White House invites you to something, you attend,” Stacher said Monday.

Stacher has been studying the political climate of Egypt and the Middle East for nine years. He studied and taught at the American University in Cairo. He has also published and reviewed several books on history and politics in Egypt and the Middle East.

Stacher would not talk about the details of Monday’s National Security Council meeting other than to say that the meeting was to discuss how the United States would approach the Egyptian unrest.

In regard to the political protests in Egypt, “The kettle has boiled over and now they’re having trouble putting the lid on top of it,” Stacher said.

Stacher said President Hosni Mubarak, a thoroughly authoritarian leader, governed Egypt since 1981. He said Mubarak’s regime is one that has used torture on a daily basis, has detained about 20,000 people as political prisoners and has engaged in internal warfare with its own citizens.

“It’s a regime that is extremely corrupt and that has impoverished a majority of its citizens,” Stacher said. “It’s built up a lot of frustration.”

As for the actual events that sparked the countrywide protests, Stacher said it’s been a mixture of events and conditions working together.

“I think the economic conditions, combined with the political repression, melded in a special way with the duration. This has been going on an awful long time and just boiled over into mass discontent,” he said. “And I think it was partially inspired by the events in Tunisia this month when the dictator Ben Ali was asked to leave after 23 years in Tunis. Once the Egyptians saw that, they began trying to remove their own dictator.”

In spite of obvious support across Egypt, Stacher said he is pessimistic about the possibility of a democratic system coming to power as a result of the protests.

“The military of Hosni Mubarak — he is an air force general — I see them continuing to stay in power,” Stacher said. “I don’t know that Mubarak can survive this crisis, but I believe that the institution of the military will continue to govern Egypt. I don’t think the protestors are going to get what they want.”

Stacher said supporting a newly formed democracy in Egypt would be a chance for the United States to rise to the occasion and reverse its current policies. He said such policies in the past could have been contributed to the attacks on Sept. 11.

Stacher said that, in spite of the opportunity to alter policy, national security issues will probably prevent the U.S. from embracing such a bold change of power.

“I actually think we’re going to continue the policies that we have traditionally used,” Stacher said. “I feel as the military comes to power, we’ll be happy to support the new president of Egypt. I don’t think we will support democracy.”

Contact Julie Sickel at [email protected].