Peace Through Strength
Watching events unfold in Egypt, it’s easy to question what happened to this once seemingly pro-American oasis amidst a sea of Islamic fundamentalism. Just two years ago, a well-intentioned but inexperienced new president broadcast a speech from Cairo to the world – a speech that was translated into 13 languages, orchestrated by a live White House site webcast, a State Department website, and regular updates on Twitter, Facebook and MySpace. President Barack Obama called “for a new beginning between the United States and Muslims.” After his speech, Obama was quoted saying, “One speech is not going to solve all the problems in the Middle East.”
He was correct.
Much like his 2008 campaign, Obama’s Cairo speech was full of platitudes and empty of substance. Perhaps we have seen “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims”, but the chaos reigning in Tahrir Square is not exactly the sort of new beginning Americans were hoping for. In fact, a recent Pew Research poll suggests that eighty-two percent of Egyptians regard America unfavorably and ninety-five percent want Islam to play a large role in their politics. Half had a favorable view of Hamas and twenty percent approved of al-Quaida.
President George W. Bush ran his 2000 campaign on the idea of compassionate conservatism and that passion drove him to reach out to the citizen-victims of Iran, Iraq, and other Muslim nations living under the thumb of leaders drunk with power. During a 2003 speech to the National Endowment for Democracy, Bush asked: “Are the peoples of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty? Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism? Are they alone never to know freedom and never even to have a choice in the matter?” Answering his own question, Bush said, “I, for one, do not believe it. I believe every person has the ability and the right to be free.”
In theory and in a perfect world, compassionate conservatism works – but, if Pew’s poll results are accurate – elections in Egypt will make Egypt more Islamic, more Iran-friendly, and further away from anything resembling a Democratic friend of the United States -and more importantly, of Israel. Mubarak is trying to salvage his office by being all things to all people, save stepping down, and it’s not working. There is a reason America’s version of Democracy is not ruled by the mob, and we’re seeing that demonstrated in the streets of Cairo every night.
Thirty years and billions of dollars later, Washington should understand that America’s policy of renting allies like Egypt lasts only as long as there is a responsible friend there to accept the money. To make matters worse, the Obama administration’s foreign policy is disjointed, disorganized, and unpredictable – all over the place. It has catered to dictators and despots in order to cut deals and make friends. During his Cairo speech Obama said, “No system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other” – yet he recently sided with Egyptian protestors who, by all accounts, despise America almost as much as they despise President Mubarak.
Twenty years ago, during his farewell address to the nation, another American president said, “We meant to change a nation, and instead, we changed a world.” Without firing a shot, and without the advantages of today’s technological bells and whistles, Ronald Reagan was able to tap into the God-given yearning for freedom found inside everyone – and as a result, the walls of communism fell down, allowing the tide of democracy to rush through.
©2011 Susan Stamper Brown.