Friday, January 28, 2011

Special Comment- The Value of Justice vs. Self Interest

Since the sham of the election that Iran held in 2009 and the protests that followed, I have worn a piece of green ribbon around my left wrist. Green was the color that had come to represent the candidacy of Mir-Hossein Mousavi and the prospect of a more progressive and open Iran. I wanted to somehow show solidarity with the protesters. Even though the protests have largely faded, I continue to wear it as a sign of solidarity with people who seek justice.

The people of the Middle East are not different than you and I. It is an obvious statement, I know, however I feel it is easy to fall into the trap of looking at foreign peoples as a large clump that are just different. It just isn't the case. There are boyfriends and girlfriends. They have cell phones and use Facebook. They are not behind us socially or technologically. The most visible parts of the Islamic World in our media may be dominated by extremist views and violence, but in reality that is not the case.

In Egypt, large protests yesterday have caused instability to the current repressive regime in Cairo. These protests seem to have been fueled by the recent overthrow of the Tunisian Government, which was another repressive government that failed to provide economic opportunity for its people. Also there have been massive protests in Yemen.

The Egyptian protests will continue for days to come. It does seem that it will come to some sort of climatic end. With the Military now being in the streets of the major cities of Egypt it seems that one way or the other something will happen. Either Mubarak will be ousted and forced into exile* or there will be a violent crushing of the protests on Mubarak's orders.

The correct faction for the United States to align themselves with is the protesters who are seeking a more free and economically progressive Egypt. This is not a question of security, but a question of justice. Choosing to not support a popular uprising goes directly against the founding principles of our nation. The fear of who the Egyptians might choose to lead them democratically shouldn't be a concern. We shouldn't support Dictators when their people seek liberty.

It is a mentality that is left over from the Cold War. A Dictator is ok as long as he is 'our guy.' The principles of our country aren't important as long as a countries ruler is friendly or at least an enemy of an enemy. The idea that protecting our self interest in case of some sort of global war is not only unnecessary, but entirely unjust. The fear is that if the people of Egypt or the Middle East at large are given popular sovereignty they will cause change that will be hostile to the U.S.

It seems to me that the fear of actual Democracy in the Middle East is not only hypocritical, but also unfounded. If the people of the Middle East choose to elect governments that will be hostile to the West, so be it. I don't think that will be the case in most cases. I think there is some sort of rationalization for the west to allow Dictatorships to continue in the Middle East. Also, I think there is a sort of 'Chalabi effect' that those nationals and Ex-patriots of Middle Eastern countries are feeding information to Western Governments and Media about the results of Democracy to reach their own ends.

Ultimately, there should be justice in Egypt. That should be the main interest of the United States. It should not be the small bit of self interest that Egypt controls. If all this results in a new Egypt that is not so friendly to the United States that doesn't matter. It should be up to the people of Egypt to decide who their rulers should be.

Thanks for reading and please comment.

*I fear the U.S. will provide him exile.

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