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The diplomatic relationships between Egypt and the United States have entered a new phase of the conflict. After the U.S. Embassy in Egypt published a tweet with a link to Jon Stuart’s monologue where he was offending the Egyptian President and people, Egypt raised the question of ethics and morality in its diplomatic relationships with the U.S. Apparently, the discussed situation is a conflict of values. The undisputable power of free speech in America confronts the censorship, control, humility, and unquestionable power of the state in Egypt. At the same time, the case reveals the U.S. embassy’s failure to control its social activity and media decisions. The main question is what should and can be done to reestablish the historical power of the U.S.-Egypt relationships. The answer is simple: the United States should admit its mistakes and publicly apologize for offending the Egyptian President and the fundamental cultural values, on which the Egyptian society rests.
The Situation Definition
The relationships between the United States and Egypt have recently become a matter of hot public debates. The U.S. Embassy in Cairo is held responsible for the international diplomatic incident that threatens the long-standing relationships between America and Egypt. “The embassy tweeted a link to a Jon Stewart monologue that mocked Egypt’s president – offending the Egyptians – and then deleted its entire Twitter account before restoring it without the post in question, irritating Washington” (Lee). The office of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi claimed that posting a link on U.S. Embassy’s tweeter was inappropriate for a diplomatic mission (Lee).
The State Department, in turn, suggested that the recent changes in the department’s social media policies made it very difficult to control the public contents (Calamur). With the full understanding of the conflict and its potential consequences, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo first deleted its Tweeter account and then restored it, but the notorious tweet was no longer there. The only reason the U.S. Embassy restored the account was that every embassy had to have a Twitter feed (Calamur). No apologies for the U.S. Embassy’s social media conduct have followed so far. The main ethical question is this case is how the U.S. Embassy should solve the problem to restore its diplomatic relations with Egypt.
The Analysis of the Situation
The discussed case uncovers the conflict of fundamental cultural values: while the United States favors the undisputable power of free speech, the Egyptian society relies on censorship, respect, control, and unquestionable power of the authority and state. It is interesting to note, that this is not the first time the American and Egyptian cultural values clash. Just a year ago, the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo were exposed to numerous attacks, due to the American film offending the Muslim identity and consciousness (Calamur).
The analysis of the problem requires the use of more than one ethical theory. Kantian ethics and utilitarianism seem the most appropriate lens for ethical analysis. Kantian ethics is the ethics of rules and laws: the ethics and morality of someone’s actions are judged, based on their principles and intent (Tittle 43). In this case, the U.S. Embassy followed the rules and principles of its free-speech ethics, but the values and principles of Egyptian media policies were severely violated. Moreover, by following the rules and procedures of free-speech ethics, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo made a serious offense against the image of the Egyptian President and Egyptian politics and culture. Most likely, the offense was not intentional, but it is the only result the U.S. Embassy achieved in this case.
Utilitarian ethics is the ethics of consequences. In utilitarianism, consequences serve as the main criteria of ethics in individual decisions and acts (Tittle 44). The consequences of the U.S. Embassy’s actions are obvious: the diplomatic relationships between America and Egypt are under threat. The U.S.’s diplomatic image has been tainted. The Egyptian community feels offended. Still, it is not clear what exactly the United States wanted to achieve when its embassy in Cairo published the link to Jon Stewart’s show.
The ethical decision
The best the U.S. Embassy can do in this situation is to apologize and ensure that no similar offenses take place in the future. This decision is justified in the context of both utilitarian and deontological theories. From the viewpoint of rules, the Embassy’s public apology will show the U.S.’s respect of Egyptian cultural values, power, and authority. From the perspective of consequences, it will help achieve the greatest good for the greatest majority: the U.S. will be able to restore its diplomatic relationships with Egypt, while the latter will preserve the support and assistance obtained from the U.S. in its fight for democracy. The power balance will also be restored. Certainly, it is possible to say that the decision to apologize will show the Embassy’s disrespect of its free-speech policies and principles. However, while on the Egyptian territory, it is Egyptian values, principles, and policies that determine the rules of the political game. The United States was not cautious in its social media decisions, and it is high time the country recognized its mistake and apologized to put an end to the political speculations surrounding the case.
Calamur, Krishnadev. “U.S. Embassy Tweets Jon Stewart’s Egypt Monologue: Diplomatic Incident Ensues.” NPR, 2013. Web.
Lee, Matthew. “Tweet about ‘Daily Show’ Boomerangs on US Embassy.” Denverpost, 2013. Web.
Tittle, Peg. Ethical Issues in Business: Inquiries, Cases, and Readings. NY: Broadview Case, 2000. Print.