NEW YORK — President Obama’s historic speech at Cairo University galvanized millions of people across the Arab world with its inspiring message of peace and brotherhood among Muslims. And his stirring endorsement of democracy led many Egyptians gave hope to many Egyptians that his words would ring in a new era, helping pressure their own government to hold free and fair elections and to adhere to the rule of law.
But when it comes to backing up the president’s rhetoric since that speech in June 2009, the administration has a decidedly mixed record and has disappointed many Egyptians, foreign policy experts tell The Huffington Post. Though Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has championed human rights around the world and American diplomats have quietly encouraged political and legal reforms in Egypt, when it comes to promoting democracy in the riot-torn country, efforts have generally been less aggressive than the Bush administration’s. On Friday, amidst violent protests, longtime leader Hosni Mubarak announced the resignation of Egypt’s government.
In its first year, the Obama administration cut funding for democracy and governance programming in Egypt by more than half, from $50 million in 2008 to $20 million in 2009 (Congress later appropriated another $5 million). The level of funding for civil society programs and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) was cut disproportionately,