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Egyptian Foreign Policy

Courtesy Reuters

Fourteen people were told beforehand of Nasser's decision to nationalize the Suez Canal in July 1956; only two knew in advance of the decision to expel the Soviet experts from Egypt in July 1972, and then only a few hours before the Soviet Ambassador was informed. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat himself admits that he told no one but his Foreign Minister of his dramatic decision to go to Jerusalem last November.

These were all momentous decisions - some affecting the issues of war and peace, others, like the Jerusalem visit, representing a radical departure from the political line consistently followed by Egypt ever since it began to play an active role in the Arab-Israeli conflict in 1948. While the above examples graphically illustrate how major policy decisions are made in Egypt, they could just as easily apply to most Third World countries, which, unlike developed societies, have not yet attained the stage where constitutional legitimacy imposes objective constraints on the decision-making process. Developing countries are usually at one of two stages in their social, economic and political development: the traditional or the transitional. In both, decision-making powers are usually held by one individual. This may be a hereditary monarch, a prince or a sheikh, who rules with the authority of tradition behind him. It may be a charismatic leader who enjoys popular support for freeing his people from colonial bondage and for placing the country on the path of development. Or he could simply be a dictator who, on the pretext that the road to development is inevitably a hazardous one involving occasional violent upheavals, imposes a repressive system of law and order.

Whoever he may be - traditional ruler, charismatic leader or dictator - this individual is the final arbiter on all major policy matters. While he may delegate some powers in certain internal domains, such as agricultural and industrial development, he will retain full decision-making powers in two areas: foreign policy and defense. Even if the machinery for consultation appears to be

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