I’ve been thinking (dangerous), musing, reading and self-questioning. In other words, a normal day.
What is at the forefront of our minds and our TV screens at the moment is the unfolding drama of Egypt.
I have been struck, somewhat unexpectedly, by a sort of epiphany; a moment when I can see politicians and diplomacy for what they are.
I have been infuriated by the utter hypocrisy of Egypt’s western allies, the vaunted western democracies and the news media.
First Obama, who like his predecessors, has supported Mubarak and his awful regime. He believed that stability in the region required Egypt to work with the US, (who payed billions to maintain the regime and prop up its military) as a bulwark against Islamism. He believed that this long-held strategy would prevent a regional implosion and, ultimately preserve the peace between Israel and Egypt. Well, it worked, didn’t it? For more than 30 years.
Obama was not alone, of course; like everyone else he did not believe that democracy could be born from an Arab womb without a strong US midwife (Iraq, Afghanistan) and a sturdy pair of forceps.
Governments have to work with regimes they might not approve of, but the West has long supported or at least tolerated dictators only to turn against them at the slightest sniff of the outbreak of democracy, or more often when their own interests have changed.
This was not so much a sniff but a full-blown bout of influenza. Obama turned against Mubarak and declared he wanted to see a smooth transition of power according to the will of the Egyptian people; a will he had not believed existed and which now he applauded.
Where was his support and that of the western democracies for the will of the Egyptian people before? What did he or any other western democracy ever do to encourage democracy in countries suffering under dictators? All the US ever did was invade and militarily intervene to impose their national will and their idea of democracy on Iraq, Afghanistan and before this Vietnam. One could also mention Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Grenada.
OK. I don’t want to bash the US, but as the leaders of the free world their foreign policy was often guided by fear; it used to be Communism, now it’s Islamism. In this Internet era, maybe a tweet or a leak is as powerful as an ICBM or an armoured division.
Outside of the Monroe Doctrine area, Europe has always gone along with their ally. Perhaps only in Yugoslavia where the battle was about preventing genocide and stabilising Europe did the West get it right, despite many mistakes.
Perhaps events like those in Egypt show us that international politics is really about self-interest and is governed by a hefty dose of Realpolitk; if the dictator is on your side, prop him up, if he is against you, undermine, attack, invade. There is no true morality in international politics, only the pretence of it.
The problem with this approach is most apparent when your client, or unsavoury dictator friend, falls from grace, and this is particularly embarrassing when your guy is replaced by a democracy; just the sort of government you should have been supporting all along.
Governments like the UK and the USA then have to come up with some platitudes and become imperiously statesmanlike and request, guide, coerce their former ally to fall on his sword so they can greet with fanfare the new government, the one they always really wanted, a government of the people, a true democracy which they now support and expect to continue with relations as normal.
So, when this new democracy comes into being it is not surprising that those governments who supported its predecessor are not exactly flavour of the month.
Well, we don’t have a democracy in Egypt yet, but if we do, then the US and its allies will have some explaining to do, which it has already decided to do by offering a few billion dollars in aid.
Am I being too cynical?
Such is political life. Hypocrisy is sort-of built-in.
And, of course, nowhere is Israel held up as the only democracy in the Middle East; in fact, today, I heard someone on a news programme looking forward to Egypt being the FIRST democracy in the region.
What region is that? North Africa?