As I watch these astonishing events transpiring in Egypt, I have nothing but awe for the courageous people of Egypt, young and old, religious and secular, rich and poor, who are rising up nonviolently to take their country back…
… at the same time, I confess no small amount cynicism for my own country, whose leaders are utterly flabbergasted by the Egyptian revolution and can do little but sit by helplessly and watch circumstances unfold.
This is nothing new, of course. It’s what happens when we purport to promote freedom and democracy while openly supporting tyrants. It’s what happens when we claim our Mideast foreign policy promotes “stability” when what we really seek to promote is our own national interests. Do we really, actually believe that citizens of the Arab world cannot tell the difference?
On this point, I am with utter agreement with analyst Robert Grenier of Al-Jazeera English, who bemoans
the extent to which successive US administrations have consistently betrayed a lack of faith in the efficacy of America’s democratic creed, the extent to which the US government has denied the essentially moderating influence of democratic accountability to the people, whether in Algeria in 1992 or in Palestine in 2006.
The failure of the US to uphold its stated commitment to democratic values therefore goes beyond a simple surface hypocrisy, beyond the exigencies of great-power interests, to suggest a fundamental lack of belief in democracy as a means of promoting enlightened, long-term US interests in peace and stability.
It’s sobering to consider: at the end of the day does our nation ultimately have true faith in democracy, or does our ultimate faith only lie in the expansion of our power and influence?
Think I’m a blind optimist? Think I don’t understand how the real world works? Think it’s naive to suggest that the Arab world could actually be ready for democracy? Before you answer yes, just ask yourself how far arming dictatorial regimes has gotten us.
And don’t just take my word for it. Here’s a healthy dose of optimism from an Israeli newspaper columnist:
(There) is no room for early pessimism. Thus far, the Egyptian protest did not address Israel or the peace treaty with it. We want normal lives, protestors told the microphones…
The Egyptian people are ready for democracy. The past two decades clearly proved that there are no nations that are not ripe for democracy. There are no peoples and no geographical regions whose culture, character and history is incommensurate with liberal, social democracy.
President Barack Obama said so openly in his famous Cairo speech. His predecessor, George W. Bush, also encouraged democratization of the Arab world. Back then, few people lauded him, and even fewer understood his message. Now, after so much blood had already been spilled on Egypt’s streets, they already understand.