How events in Egypt affect the US

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Lisa Mullins: The events in the past few weeks in Egypt and the Middle East have been momentous; and they have been a real challenge for U.S. foreign policy makers. We want to put it all in a larger context, so we turn to Joseph Nye, professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, a former assistant secretary of state for international security affairs. His new book is called The Future of Power. He says the definition of power has changed over time.

Joseph Nye: Historically, people always thought that power came out of the barrel of a gun and that the winner was whose army wins. In an information age we're seeing it's not just whose army wins, it's also whose story wins. I call the first hard power, the military and economic power, and that ability to attract and persuade is soft power.

Mullins: How does that apply in Egypt right now?

Nye: What you have is in Egypt a narrative of democracy and we have to be behind that narrative of democracy. You have basically a hard power, which is let's say in Egypt the army, and soft power, which is the story, the narrative which attracts people. And the problem for the administration is they have to work with the government because the government is there, but they also have to work with the people in civil society. And that soft power narrative is how you attract people in civil society, so it's a little bit like being on a tight rope for the Obama administration; they have to work with the government, but they have to work with a civil society and not fall off that tight rope.

Mullins: That's right, and right now I don't know if there's a net below or not because things have presumably gotten a lot more dicey in the past 24 hours. So what's the position for the administration and what are the options?

Nye: Well, I think the administration as Hillary Clinton has said, wants to see an orderly transition to democracy, but it's easier to say that then to do it. So you don't want chaos in the streets, you don't want the bad guys taking over. But you do want to align yourself very clearly with the aspirations of this younger generation and try to promote democracy. That means getting the constitution cleaned up. It means if the army takes over, making sure the army really is serious about promoting democracy and real elections. Allowing parties to be built. Getting rid of the legislation or the decrees that now allow people to be locked up without any justification. So there are a lot of things that are what you might call the building blocks of democracy that we need to try to get in place.

Mullins: Where does the United States find itself right now in terms of foreign aid, because the U.S. has been investing $1.3 billion a year, it goes to the Egyptian military. Does that aid bring Washington the power that it wants to…

Nye: Not necessarily, I mean it brings some power, but there's also what I call in the book, the power of narrative. The fact that we stand for democracy and human rights is just as important or more so than the aid. Remember Obama's speech in Cairo in which he talked about what the United States stood for. That's very powerful and frankly, if I had to choose that or the aid, the power of the narrative is perhaps even more important.

Mullins: And does Washington right now have any voice in Cairo?

Nye: Yes, it does, indeed some people say American influence has declined in the Middle East…

Mullins: Declined everywhere.

Nye: Well, I think in fact in the Far East it's, we're stronger rather than weaker than people thing, but in the Middle East there's a lot going on. Some of our policies are unpopular and we're probably not as popular as we would've been I'd say 10-15 years ago. On the other hand, nobody talks about Costa Rica's, or Canada's, or Norway's, or Russia's influence, or even China's influence in Egypt. China, all it did was censor the mention of Egypt in China. The Americans are still the most important country outside of Egypt. Most of what's happening in Egypt is gonna be done by Egyptians, but the Americans are still a major factor.

Mullins: Thank you very much, Joseph Nye, university distinguished professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. His new book is called The Future of Power. Thank you.

Nye: Thank you.

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Lisa Mullins: Once again the big news of this day from Cairo, two and a half weeks after Egyptians first took to the street demanding the resignation of their president, Hosni Mubarak has stepped down.

The World's Ben Gilbert is in Cairo, he has been hearing a lot of those chants in the past 24 hours. Ben, as you watched events unfold there at the epicenter of the protest in Tahrir Square, can you tell us how many people are still out in the square now and what they are doing

Ben Gilbert: Well there are still hundreds of people flowing into the square just below my window here in the hotel and there are still thousands of people in the square and on the roads nearby, people are driving up an down the roads honking their horns, there are fireworks coming from the square and other places around the city; on the nil river some of the boats that have been out of work since the tourists left two weeks ago they are flashing their lights, they are out on the nil ,it's really a celebratory, jubilant mood here in Cairo tonight.

Mullins: Do you know if they going to be keeping up the tent city that exists in the square right now, will they continue the protest?

Gilbert: Well that is a question that is on everyone's mind right now. I think that relates to what the military who now assumed power in Egypt is going to do and I think tonight everyone down there is celebrating, playing drums, enjoying their victory tonight but many protesters have said to me that Mubarak going in the past few days in Interview that former president Mubarak going would not be enough and that they wanted the whole regime changed and they also want others steps that the emergency law to be canceled which has been in affect for 30 years and also free and fair elections, so it really depends on the next several days or weeks what we are going to see the military do and how much say the protesters will have in this new situation.

Mullins: Is there any sign of the army there either on the square or outside the square throughout Cairo?

Gilbert: The army is still everywhere, I mean they have not moved their positions as far as I can tell but around the downtown area, around the square here now there are young children and families who brought their kids to climb up on top of the tanks and there have been kinds kind of playing on the tanks all night with the soldiers ,really a friendly atmosphere here.

Mullins: Alright and I also wonder what it was like for you Ben, you have covered the region for quite some time, what it was like for you to see all of this transpire today?

Gilbert: Well after having just gone here a few days ago I actually I was just in the room here watching on TV some of the video footage from ten or so days ago when the area below me was filled with teargas, when there was Molotov cocktails being thrown back and forth between people attacking the peaceful protesters ,I mean really it is an amazing moment for not just Egypt and what the Egyptian people have done but I think also a historic day in the Arab world in terms of autocratic rulers who bully their people as opposed to actually listening to their people and giving their people a say in government, looks like this is the second domino to fall in the last few month and perhaps it won't be the last and that is a good thing I believe.

Mullins: Thank you very much The World's Ben Gilbert in Cairo. There is a lot more news from Egypt of course, for the latest from the BBC plus a sample of what is being said from Cairo on Twitter, check out theworld.org/Egypt. That is it for our program today but before we go, here is Egyptian vice president Omar Suleiman announcing Hosni Mubarak's resignation earlier today.

Translator: [Translating {Arabic}] Muhammad Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down from the office of president of the republic and has charged the higher council of the armed forces to administer the affairs of the country.