Professor urges Obama to revise foreign policy

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An open letter from a UT professor urging President Obama to support vocally the cause of the Egyptian protestors has drawn the signatures of more than 150 political scientists across the country. In the face of demonstrators demanding the removal of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Obama was slow to declare a position, said Jason Brownlee, an associate professor of government and Middle Eastern studies. Brownlee said he wrote the letter to draw public and political attention to the United States’ place in the unrest. In an announcement on state-run television Tuesday, Mubarak said he would not run for another term in the next presidential election scheduled for September. The same day, Obama urged his Egyptian counterpart, whose held the position since 1981, not to seek a reelection bid. “There are two direct goals aimed at the U.S. government,” Brownlee said. “The first is that President Obama should stand on the side of the demonstrators and withdraw his support from Hosni Mubarak. The second is to reassess U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and consider how we got here in the first place.” Signatories include historians and researchers in relevant fields, including renowned author and lecturer Noam Chomsky; Clement Henry, a retired UT government professor and specialist in Egypt; and dual-degree master’s student Rebecca Hopkins. “Dr. Brownlee’s weight in the field is what led me to sign onto his letter,” said Hopkins, who is pursuing her degrees in public affairs and Middle Eastern studies. “I also just thought it was a cogent, thoughtful, well put together letter that addressed the constraints on both the U.S. and Egypt.” Roy Casagranda, an Austin Community College government professor, is from Egypt. He said sending an open letter to Obama to change the direction of U.S. foreign policy could be effective. “The U.S. government gives about $1.5 billion per year,” Casagranda said. “It’s the number two recipient of U.S. foreign aid and accounts for about 10 percent of the world’s sum of foreign aid.” Brownlee visited Egypt as a semester abroad student in 1995. His most recent visit was in 2009, when he witnessed demonstrations over the Israeli attack on Gaza, which drew 100,000 protestors to Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city. “Lots and lots of people were getting together around foreign policy issues,” Brownlee said. “That was new.” Brownlee also took note of early dissent against the Mubarak regime, which he described as “white collar opposition: op-ed columnists and other middle-class active dissenters.” He said he hopes to get people thinking about U.S. policy in the Middle East region. “It’s difficult to change foreign policy, and it tends to come from lots of Americans putting pressure on the U.S. government,” he said.