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Opinion: Obama must endorse democratic process in Egypt

Egyptian reformers embrace outside support, American or otherwise, for democratic processes.

George W. Bush often over-focused on specific political results in the Arab-Muslim world — openly favoring specific political outcomes in places like Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Gaza. Obama doesn't need to wear an ElBaradei T-shirt on a visit to the Pyramids, but he should be clear on how the U.S. feels about the Egyptian regime extending unelected brutality into a fourth decade.

Opposition groups in Egypt embrace outside support — American or otherwise — for democratic processes, for they know they need it. When Egypt recently extended its nearly 30-year-old state of martial law for another two years, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly objected. Her response was covered on the front page and above the fold in Al-Masry Al-Yom, Egypt’s largest opposition newspaper. Egyptian reformers find hope in criticism of the Egyptian regime by world leaders — even leaders with whom Arabs often find themselves at odds on other regional issues.

When the Egyptian elections draw even closer, Obama shouldn’t simply trot out Clinton or have Susan Rice deliver a useless statement to the United Nations. Just as he did in Cairo, Obama should speak directly to the Egyptian regime and its oppressed, insisting that Egypt’s style of democracy be determined by its 80 million inhabitants rather than its army.

Many Egyptians are still looking for the "new way forward" Obama spoke of in 2009. Now it’s time to take a step with them.

Justin D. Martin is a journalism professor at The American University in Cairo. Follow him on Twitter: @Justin_D_Martin or email him at