Monday, January 31, 2011

The Egyptian Revolution: The Birth of an Era, the Death of a Myth

History is being made in Egypt. After a long history of dictatorship and 30 years under the same "President", the Egyptians have made their voices heard, informing the world that they too would like a say in who governs them. Tens of thousands have taken to the streets of Cairo, even in the face of tear gas and steel clubs, driven by a common, general sentiment that they refuse to tolerate any longer Hosni Mubarak's police state- a state that for decades had kept a tight grip on all aspects of Egyptian life.

The Arab world has been categorized by scholars and theorists as being resistant to democratic forces. Some attribute that to education, others to religion, others to culture. Now the debate can stop. Egypt, the Arab world's largest country at 80 million people, has turned a corner. We do not know, nor can we pretend to predict with any accuracy, what type of country it will become. But one thing is certain- even as the Mubarak regime desperately makes it final attempts to stay afloat, the voice of the people has been heard.

Egypt's revolution, sparked by a similar outburst in Tunisia and sparking yet another in Yemen, will usher in and set the tone for a new era of Middle East Politics. Sure, the Arab world has democracies (Lebanon, Iraq, the Palestinian Territories), but they have been forged not through the fires of public outcry but by the forces of foreign intervention. Egypt is different. Egypt's revolution is neither a foreign invasion nor a military coup. Whatever happens in Egypt's future will be largely decided by Egyptians- a phenomenon generally unfamiliar to the Arab world.

And in the same moment the fundamental belief behind US foreign policy in the Middle East is rocked to its core- simply put, the belief that Middle East peace can be brought about by controlling Arabs instead of listening to them. That a peace between Arabs and Israeli's can be negotiated without one of the parties being present. Sure, the US has brought Arabs and Israeli's to the table, but those Arab leaders were always, like Mubarak, dictators whose regimes the US coddled. Never were they authentic expressions of the sentiments of their Arab populations.

And now, as the flames of revolution burn in Egypt, they run in part on the fuel of bitterness towards a half century of US policy that spoke of democracy from the platform, while doing everything they could to strengthen democracy's enemies in policy.

Is there a lesson to be learned? Of course, but it is a lesson we should have already learned a thousand times over. We should have learned it in Iran, where our support of the dictatorial Shah and our constant covert meddling led to the relationship with the country we have today. Our attempts to "keep the world safe" by empowering tyrants is not simply against our nation's most precious values and ideals, it is, in the long run, just plain stupid.


Blogger Justin said...

Well Said. I would love to hear your continued thoughts on this as events unfold. It is nearly impossible to hear educated, objective voices on this matter here in the States.
Bless you guys. Our hearts are with you.

6:18 PM  

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