Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Freedom Coalition and Protests in the Muslim World

Protests in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen present a real challenge to United States foreign policy. On the one hand, leaders of these mostly repressive regimes have been somewhat cooperative with the United States. However, their years of repression and corruption have turned their countries into powder kegs, ripe for agitation by radical Islamists. Not only is this a challenge for the United States, I think it is a challenge for all who believe in freedom. If the radical Islamists succeed in toppling the governments in those countries, then we might end up with a replay of Iran in 1978, the end result being an even more repressive regime that is fundamentally opposed to the interests of the United States, and indeed against the concepts of liberty and democracy themselves.

In my last update to the Freedom Coalition Agenda, which predates my participation in the Tea Party, I stake out the following principle:

  • Support Freedom Abroad. Newly liberated peoples the world over have shown a propensity to embrace freedom and markets when the yoke of tyranny has been lifted. The policy of America should be to actively work against dictatorship in all its forms (Islamic, Socialist, Fascist and Communist). We should seek to advance the cause of freedom, not through force of arms, but through steady pressure. Every piece of foreign policy should be weighed against this end. Further, we are also ready to use force of arms in this cause when defense of our national interest requires it. Americans resonate with the concepts of helping to liberate peoples from tyranny, this is a winner. We especially decry the pathetic kow-towing to dictatorship in our own hemisphere in the shameful treatment of Honduras by the Obama administration.
Supporting Hosni Mubarak, and his ilk does not accord with my principles. What then, should we recommend? I don't think there is any easy answer, but focusing on Egypt, I think that we have to use the crisis to pressure Mubarak into real reforms. That would mean fresh elections, probably unbanning of previously banned political parties. The President got it at least partly right:
"Egypt's been an ally of ours on a lot of critical issues," Obama said. "President Mubarak has been very helpful on a range of tough issues in the Middle East. But I've always said to him that making sure that they're moving forward on reform, political reform and economic reform, is absolutely critical to the long-term well-being of Egypt. And you can see these pent-up frustrations that are being displayed on the streets."
Unfortunately, several reports I have read make it clear that the protesters do not consider the United States their friend, despite Obama's Cairo speech in 2009. At this late date, it is unlikely that this perception can change. If the protests overwhelm the government, it could easily lead to an anti-U.S., anti-Israeli regime that could unleash a new round of bloodshed in the Middle East. No wonder the stock market fell yesterday.

My answer is that we have to encourage reform, and use the example of Egypt to warn Muslim dictators in the region that they could be next if ending corruption and giving the people a voice through true democracy. In the short term, I am not sure if much can be done.

Picture at right from NYTimes, taken outside of the United Nations on Saturday, January 29.

1 comment:

  1. I dunno, man, there are times when the best option is to just sit back and let things play out. I doubt the Egyptians are eagerly awaiting word from Barack Obama. No matter which way the guy goes, we're going to get the blame for whatever goes wrong.