Sunday, January 30, 2011
Elliot Abrams wrote an article yesterday in the Washington Post arguing that the recent uprising in Egypt and Tunis have proved George W. Bush to be right. His main points express that Arabs, surprise, do value freedom, that Bush's overthrow of Sadam was the right thing to do in 2003, and that both regimes in Tunis and Egypt were dictatorships. Well this is a misrepresentation of what the western position was from those two regimes:
First Husni Mubarak and Zain al Abidin bin Ali were two important western allies in the Middle Eastern region. Their prized credentials are massive suppression of opposition, tight control of media, liberal economic policies, and good relations with Israel. Those two countries would have never ever been on George Bush's radar for "regime change".
Second Husni Mubarak and bin Ali, both presidents for over 20 years, have promised change and never delivered. In fact 9/11 gave their regimes a boost to crack down on opposition in the name of "the war on terror". They garnered even more support from the west for their rule when they championed the motto of : Either us and stability or the Islamists and chaos, as "Stability at all costs" was the name of the game.
Third, Tunis and Egypt have been part of what is called the "Moderate Arab Camp", these two coutries were the economic modernization and deplomatic example for the rest of the Middle East. George Bush's "New Middle East" agenda was supported by Mubarak and bin Ali, among others.
The barrier of fear has been broken in some Middle Eastern countries. Some observers are just now jumping on the truth wagon, and trying to distort the implications of what happened in Tunis and Egypt. Demands for political pluralism, freedom of expression, comprehensive policies for employemnt have always been brewing in the Middle East, where unemployment can reach 35% in some countries and political imprisonment are a normal occurence.
The hope is that U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East (agreeing in this part with Abrams) advances from having it both ways: support for regimes and expressing dismay at human rights violations. And instead adopt a clear stance supporting the public's aspiration for indigenous solutions for regional problems, economic reform and political pluralism; a stance that is congruent with American ideals.