So what about Egypt, eh? Is there anything more amazing than the relatively spontaneous gathering of humanity to peacefully declare freedom for itself? This following Tunisia must bring up comparisons to Eastern Europe in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Unlike the “color revolutions” of the 00’s which looked like foreign policy set plays to elevate friendly leaders and haven’t amounted to much beyond the adoption of neo-liberal economics. As Kissinger said, the US doesn’t have friends, it has interests. Consequently, we have a long history of supporting “friendly” dictatorships and one-party states. The equipment used by the Egyptian military and police that proudly proclaims “Made in U.S.A” proves the point. Mubarak’s Egypt is a cruel police state, but that’s ok because he serves our interests. He’ll take our terror suspects who need to disappear. He’ll do what he can to enforce the blockade of Gaza. And he’ll keep his own people in line, quiet about any feelings the 40,000,000 of them might have about US behavior in their neighborhood. All while preaching ceaselessly about freedom and democracy.
We’re standing on the wrong side of history.
There should be no expectation that US leadership make bold, public declarations in support of the Egyptian people…though it had no issue making such statements when the color revolution playbook got opened for Iran. Such statements probably wouldn’t carry much weight with the people who matter set against thirty years of support for the dictator the protests are meant to oust, and it would be far more effective to force Mubarak out quietly.
There should be bold and united declarations in support of freedom and self-determination, especially when people are in the streets making those declarations in the face of state brutality. Mr. Obama’s statements of “more freedom” and “more hopeful” ring hollow, as do his admonishments about violence to protesters who have been incredibly civil and peaceful. We are past the point of politics and building bridges between differing points of view. There is no violent revolutionary behavior; no burning of Mr. Obama in effigy or his flag; and no calls for the establishment of an Islamic fundamentalist Egypt. We are at the point of principles. The question is whether Mr. Obama has them?
Does the United States of America, a nation founded on self-evident truths, stand for freedom and self-determination? Or are those truths a little less clear than they were in the late 18th Century?
Mr. Obama is taking Kissinger’s dictum to heart, and like Kissinger is more than willing to support a dictator in pursuit of our supposed interests. I expect that the best case scenario in the the basements of DC is a military takeover leading to a little more freedom on the surface and the status quo where it counts. And then we wonder why we don’t have any friends; it’s because we only have interests.
A free Egypt with real democracy is unlikely to serve our short term interests. The Muslim Brotherhood will be a part of any freely elected Egyptian government, given that the majority of Egyptians are Muslims any government is likely to be Islamic to at least the same degree as the United States is Christian. (So far, the lack of religious animosity is refreshing and we shouldn’t assume that Egypt is incapable of balancing its multiple faiths peacefully.) It is highly unlikely that Egypt would continue to starve Gaza or torture for us.
I’m afraid that the US establishment cannot see beyond that, indicating that it has lost touch with any concept of our long term interests…if we can be said to have them without confusing long-term interests with perpetual hegemony. Those are very much centered on ideas like freedom and self-determination. Theoretically, all of our cherished ideals about ourselves and how the world should work are predicated on the self-evident truths. Were we to stand for those, we might find that our interests are in fact well-served because they’re self-evident and shared by our friends.