Atlantis Alumni

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The U.S. Middle East Problem Of Our Own Making

Photo: The port at Alexandria, Egypt. Our cruise ship docked there in 2009

Former Senator Gary Hart issues a diagnosis and gets it exactly right:

From the beginning of the Cold War, we adopted a policy (some called it political realism; I call it unprincipled expediency) described as "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." Thus, regardless of how repressive and anti-democratic a potentate might be, if he were anti-communist, he was our friend. We gave dozens of these types a lot of money and political support even though it was used to build up security services that locked up and tortured anyone who quoted our Declaration of Independence in the national square...If we believe what we claim to believe, and if we truly mean to stand on the principles embodied in our Constitution, we are going to have to do better than this. That is if we truly want to stay in the vanguard of history and not try to merely catch up to it as it disappears over the horizon and leaves us behind.

In the case of the Middle East, we've supported dictators like Mubarak because they delivered stability, which allowed us to continue to pig out on Arab oil. "Democracy" we supported, just as long as the people we wanted got elected.

But now the Middle East is exploding. There is pent up demand for economic justice, an end to repression, and real power sharing. We can continue our past policy of giving lip service to democracy while working covertly for our friends and against our perceived enemies in the region. Or, we can take a firm stand for the democratic process, wherever that leads. If we do the former, expect more attempts to fly planes into our buildings. If we do the latter there is a chance that Arab anti-American sentiment may wane. If we live up to our principles and our words and act responsibly for a change, there is a chance we'll come out ahead in the region as these movements play out. Will we do the right thing?

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