March 01, 2011

Today's Most Important Story That You Will Likely Not Read

An article by Leila Fadel on the Egyptian police ran in today's Washington Post. I probably would not have read it had I not been flipping through the actual paper edition, and I'm guessing the editors at the Post itself did not consider it very important because it has a dateline of CAIRO even though Fadel has been in Libya for over a week -- suggesting the paper sat on this story, not considering it a priority, until they could find a place into which they could squeeze it.

Of all the institutions Egypt may need to overhaul if it hopes for a
true democratic transition, the police and security forces are among the
most important ...


After the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, the population's
widespread fear of the police has given way to a general disdain for the
forces that beat and teargassed demonstrators during recent protests.


"If they would just let me explain that I would never beat them, that
they are my brothers," Hamid says of the people who, instead of offering
deference, now holler words like "traitor" at him when he is at his
post. "I just stand there, and I don't know what to say."

If you read my trip reports from Egypt, you'll know I have been screaming about how all the focus on the Egyptian military has taken people's attention off the fact that what the Egyptian military and people need more than anything right now is, in addition to a transitional government, competent local police.

If the United States and its allies are looking for ways in which they might support the rule of law in post-Mubarak Egypt, supplying police trainers might make a lot more sense than some of the $1.3 billion in military aid the United States supplies annually.

Update: Jason "Oddball" Fritz, who knows more about training police than I do, has a good response to this post on Ink Spots.