Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Could Journalists Spend Five Minutes on Game Theory, Please?

A recent New York Times article, headlined as "Egypt's Leader's Signal Commitment to Civilian Rule" tells me little about what the Egyptian government has done to "signal" its "commitment." The UK's David Cameron visited, the country's top prosecutor wants to request that the Foreign Ministry freeze the assets of Mubarak, his family and his cronies, the military has appointed an opposition member to a ministerial position--as the Minister of Tourism, and the military has refused (so far) to reappoint a Minister of Information.

In none of these case has the government "signaled" anything or demonstrated that its commitments are "credible." That is, these actions are easy to do and easy to undo. In fact, few of them represent "actions" by the government at all. An important foreign dignitary visited and a prosecutor wants to do something to the Mubaraks. And appointing an opposition party member as the Minister of Tourism hardly seems earth shattering. I fail to see how this will entail any costs to the military should they choose to move in a less-than-democratic direction.

Also, Cameron refused to meet with the Muslim Brotherhood, saying "that the Egyptian uprising was 'not about extremists on the streets.'" This, perhaps, sends the clearest message of all those presented in the article. Namely, that the West still vitally misunderstands the nature of the Muslim Brotherhood. The sooner the West stops associating the organization with extremism, the better. Indeed, such a move might even bolster the moderate elements of the organization.

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