It’s Time For America’s Foreign Policy Rhetoric to Match Its Actions: The Middle East Protests

And America’s moral example must always shine for all who yearn for freedom and justice and dignity. And because we’ve begun this work, tonight we can say that American leadership has been renewed and America’s standing has been restored. President Obama

Every civilized nation also has a responsibility to stand up for the people suffering under dictatorship,” the president said. “In Belarus, North Korea, Syria and Iran, brutal regimes deny their people the fundamental rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration (of Human Rights).” President Bush

In his first foreign policy speech of the 1992 presidential campaign, then-Governor Bill Clinton called for “an American foreign policy of engagement for democracy. President Bill Clinton

For at least 20 years, US foreign policy has been to promote democracy, but only when it is convenient. Our nation has consistently supported Middle East and North African dictatorships if they are secular or have a lot of oil . Ben Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, the Shah in Iran, Saddam Hussein in Iraq (in the 80s until he tried to take over the oil supplies), the Saud family. The list can go on.

Democracy promotion simply hasn’t applied to these dictatorships. In fact, when Obama went to Cairo and promoted democracy in 2009, Mubarak threw a fit, and the Obama administration retreated quickly, defunding democracy promotion in its Egyptian foreign assistance program.

Now, you may wonder how a man who has ruled a country through a security apparatus for 32 years by force, rigs elections to win by no less than 92%, demands reductions in democracy promotion, removes communications services when there are threats to his regime, ad nauseum, can be anything but a dictator. But, Vice-President Biden doesn’t consider Mubarak a dictator:

Look, Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things and he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interests in the region: Middle East peace efforts, the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing the relationship with Israel.

And I think that it would be — I would not refer to him as a dictator. PBS

So Mubarak isn’t a dictator because he’s for our foreign policy initiatives? Way to set the bar exactly where you’d prefer it Joe Biden. This is pretty much how every administration has pursued foreign relations in the Middle East.

What happened in Tunisia wasn’t an Islamist revolution, it was a revolt against an oppressive dictatorship devoid of economic opportunity for too many citizens. What is happening in Egypt is the same thing. Even though Egypt has Islamic opposition, they did not start the unrest in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood sat out of the Egyptian revolt until Friday, and even their sects mostly call for an inclusive and democratic society.

Supporting the oppression of dictators to keep the Suez Canal open, the state of Israel safer, and the oil flowing is not going to be a 21st century solution to unrest with the advent for modern media. The US, unlike what it desired in the attempted Iranian revolution of 2009, simply cannot wish away the terrible economic management that has left large disaffected populations of repressed individuals in Egypt and Tunisia. Who knows what will happen in these revolts, but what’s probable in the coming years is that riots in the region will happen increasingly. Where will the United States stand? Freeing the oppression of peoples seeking better opportunities that their autocratic regimes can’t provide? Or for the safety for Israel, and energy and trade routes that the dictatorships have provided.

The US can have both with a free Middle East, but only the latter in the status quo.

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