U.S. cannot ignore ‘stable’ dictators, former senator charges

The protests in Egypt show the United States can no longer ignore “‘stable'” dictators, former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) said Friday.

Once a liberal member of the Senate, Feingold said the United States must follow a “long-term strategy” when dealing with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his country’s future.

{mosads}His comments come amid reports the White House has proposed Murbarak resign immediately and turn over power to a transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman.

Murbarak balked at the proposal, according to the report in the New York Times, although the administration is pressing for the opposition groups to work with a transitional government until free elections can be held in September.

Feingold, who served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and authored a resolution with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) urging Egypt to improve its policies on civil liberties and human rights, called on the United States to learn what the Egyptian people really want.

“No longer can we as a nation look the other way when ‘stable’ dictators sacrifice human rights and freedoms in the name of security,” Feingold said in statement.  “This is a recipe for failure. The United States must engage with the people of Egypt to understand the hopes they have for their country, and then the U.S. can play a constructive role in helping Egypt achieve its goals.”

Feingold also praised President Obama’s recent calls for Mubarak to step down immediately.

“I am pleased that President Obama has been direct and critical in his comments to President Mubarak, who should certainly step down and participate in a peaceful transition to a democratic civil society which respects the rule of law,” Feingold said.

This week, protests in Egypt have become increasingly violent as Mubarak supporters began to clash in the streets with throngs of Egyptians calling for Mubarak to relinquish his post. Mubarak has agreed to step down, but some observers have criticized the Egyptian president for not leaving office fast enough. An election for Mubarak’s successor is set for the fall.

Feingold lost reelection to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) in 2010. Marquette University Law School announced in January that Feingold will join the faculty as a visiting professor.

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