A friends thoughts on the American support of authoritarian regimes:
Events are unfolding fast in the Arab world right now. After the promising revolution in Tunisia, the world has witnessed unrest in a number of Arab countries, including Jordan, Yemen and Egypt. This could prove to be the Berlin wall moment of the Middle East, although one should be careful hoping for too much. Of particular importance is the current situation in Egypt. Protesters are taking to the streets and the Egyptian government is left puzzled. In this spontaneous and popular uprising, the true character of democratic states is put to test. While ordinary people in Cairo are claiming their inalienable rights as human beings, the West and in particular the United States has a choice to make.
Egypt is today at this point in history, simply because its people are fed up by President Mubarak’s authoritarian rule, the censorship, the failed economic policies of the current regime and the lack of fundamental freedoms. For 30 years, Egyptians have lived both de facto and de jure under emergency rule, and for 30 years, the United States has actively supported the current dictatorship. The West has for too long supported regimes in the Middle East who are detested by their people. The pretext has been that it is important to maintain stability in this part of the world. Despite this, the Middle East has throughout the modern history of man been the most volatile and unstable region known to us. Wars, revolutions and terrorism have alongside poverty, dictatorships and colonial rule been the defining characteristics of the Middle East. Today, however, an increasing number of political scientists and scholars are pointing out that it is the lack of true democracy that is the very root-cause of this instability. Former Presidents and politicans in the West all know this. Yet, there is no change in sight as to how Western countries are dealing with its so-called friends and allies in the Arab world.
While the world was waiting for an American reaction to the crisis in Egypt, and maybe hoped for ”a change we can believe in”, President Obama’s Secretary of State delivered the following statement: ”Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people”.
Nothing could be more distant from the reality. Against a backdrop of the chants of thousands and thousands of protesters, teargas, mass detentions and attempts by the Mubarak government to shut information networks, the words quoted above sound unreal, even foolish. Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the IAEA, who lately has emerged as political dissident in his native Egypt, responded by saying: ”If you would like to know why the United States does not have credibility in the Middle East, that is precisely the answer.”
American policy in the Middle East has been a complete failure from the very start. The world recognizes that and so should the Americans themselves. When the liberty bell is ringing in numerous Arab countries today, the Americans behave as they’ve always done. The American president who ran on an election platform of change in the way the United States would approach international politics has emerged as a complete failure. It is easy to greet a revolution when it is a fact, as Obama did with respect to Tunisia in his State of the Union address. However, the true character of a statesman is reveled when he has to choose between right and wrong, between Mubarak or the Egyptian people. President Obama fails to understand that the American approach will only lead to more anger and instability in Egypt and elsewhere in the region. As the case has been with respect to Guantanamo, Afghanistan and the issue of climate change, President Obama has not been able to deliver on the issue of freedom in the Arab world. His presidency in terms of international affairs can only be described as a failure. Alas, it seems that the people of Egypt yearning to breathe free, cannot count on the the commander in chief of ”the land of the free and the home of the brave” in their hour of need as they struggle to achieve those very rights that the Declaration of Independence declared to be the rights of all men. The United States of America has proved to be a country that, regardless of its president, always will talk about democracy and freedom but never act to support it in real terms. This has been a fact for as long as the arab street can remember, and this will continue to be a fact.
If you like to know why the current government in Iran is so hostile to the United States, study the Iranian history of the past 45 years. The key to freedom in Palestine, Egypt, Iraq, Algeria and Jordan lies in the hands of the people and their resistance, not in the empty words and counter-productive acts of Western democracies. And then they dare to ask, in Washington and NYC, ”why do they hate us”.