02
Feb
11

On Egypt (and a little bit about Tunisia)

There are those who’ve asserted that, after over a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East is incapable of democracy. They’ve claimed that tribal divisions run too deep, and that the ideals of Islam and democratic, representative government are diametrically opposed.

 

In the past days, Tunisia and Egypt have proven to be shining examples that those claims just aren’t true.

 

Not that it was ever true to begin with. Hamas was, despite it’s vilification by Western powers, democratically elected in Gaza. Indeed, the majority of areas where this “always-has-been-dictatorship-always-will-be” stereotype have had democratically elected leaders- just not pro-American democratically elected leaders. And if without the West’s blessing, democracy in third-world countries tends to be tragically short lived. Just look at the US sponsored coup that ended the life of Salvador Allende, or the US attacks on the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, or the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala.

 

And here’s the rub. While it cannot be denied that the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt are a great victory for the peoples of those countries, I can’t help but wonder how long it will last. The Tunisians and Egyptians have shown that, without the West and indeed, depsite the West, they are, and always have been, capable of autonomy. They can forge their own destiny- but what if that destiny isn’t to the approval of America, Britain, and other world powers? Let us keep in mind that the Mubarak regime was emphatically supported by the US (despite recent, less than elegant attempts to flip-flop on their position). Indeed, the issue isn’t so much “what if the people in the region begin to act in their own interests?” but “when the people in the region to act in their own interests- how will the West react?”. The entire reason US diplomats and politicians are tripping over each other to voice support for the Egyptian public is because of a desperate need to keep the country as an ally. However, with the US having invested so heavily in the 30-year Mubarak regime, it’s difficult to imagine the Egyptian people particularly fond of America, the West, and the ever expanding power of globalization.

 

So it brings us back to the original problem- it’s wonderful that the Tunisians and Egyptians have freed themselves, but how long will they be free?

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1 Response to “On Egypt (and a little bit about Tunisia)”


  1. 1 Pat Noble
    February 2, 2011 at 1:44 am

    I think what is happening in several countries in the region, most notably Egypt and Tunisia because they are being covered by the media the most, is proof that democracy is not implantable. It cannot be created by foreign nations artificially implanting it, much like what the United States has tried to do in Iraq and Afghanistan. Democracy has to come from the people, that is the people of the nation itself.

    Some people contend that their nation’s democratic model is exportable. This argument has been made by certain elements in the United States, saying that the American democratic model (aka “western democracy”) can be exported everywhere in the world. China has been the most vocal in opposing this notion, believing that western democracy cannot exist in the eastern world. In this respect, both arguments are wrong. If the people will it, it can come to pass.

    On your question, “how long will they be free?”, that answer lies on several factors. First, they aren’t out of the woods yet, so they are not yet free. They are liberated in mind, but not in person. Even after democratic elections are held, the term free is completely individualistic. I personally think that anything less then democratic socialism is simply varying degrees of oppression, but that is my opinion, not fact. Second, their freedom does not have to have an expiration date. The greatest ally of freedom is people’s democracy. As long as the people keep the government transparent, democratic, and in check with its power, I think we will see an unprecedented shift in freedom in that area of the world.


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