My esteemed colleague to the North has already presented a detailed history of the politics that have shaped present conditions in the Middle East. He has painted what can arguably be said is not a flattering picture of the role American and British self-interest in perhaps planting the seeds for the rebellion that is now taking place throughout the Arab world.
Unfortunately, America has a long tradition of failing to live up to the timeless legacy of our founders- in fact, the founders couldn’t live up to it themselves. As they attempted to craft the world’s first modern democratic republic Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Madison and our other Founding Fathers realized rather early in the process that self-governance is a messy affair. Once you remove the concept of an infallible, omnipotent single-headed authority such as that embodied in a king, queen or emperor, you open yourself to a complicated mixture of various opinions about every aspect of how best to rule one’s self, as well as the necessary business of how to rule others who may not be as cooperative.
Before I continue, I want to clearly state my position as a staunch advocate for the conservation of the founding principles that still define American-style democracy no matter how far we seem to have strayed from those principles. I’m an unabashed Ted Nugent Conservative; that means I believe the framers had it right when they realized that once you decide to govern yourselves, the best government is the least government. I openly loathe the interference of an altruistic, paternal federal government in the lives of our own citizens and in the personal lives of people of other nations.
In the spirit of self-interest the Founders left future generations with a lot of unfinished business. I’m not saying they were wrong, I’m only saying in order to understand where we are now we’ve got to look at our culture of self-interest and compromise and how that affects not only our society, but today our role in the global community.
In the late 18th century, our interests in the affairs of other nations was largely only to gain financial assistance and military intervention to help secure independence. Other than that, Americans had little if any interest in the affairs of other countries and given the context of the time, the average person would not think he or she could possibly have any influence on global affairs anyway. It was hard enough to convince the average citizen of the American Colonies that he could make a real difference even in establishing a new nation. That quantum leap in mindset required some extraordinary visionaries- and quite a bit of good luck.
Still- self-governance must include by it’s nature, compromise. There’s little debate in retrospect that American independence would not have been possible in 1776 without the compromise over slavery. Later the Union could not have been preserved had not Southern people accepted a new paradigm of federal authority- even though the political system of the South had been defeated in war. Throughout our history successive groups compromised to expand the rights and privileges of those who had been deprived of the very rights our founding documents has promised to “all men.”
What the founders did especially well was to identify those basic human rights which transcend any human authority and to craft a system by which the law would be the ultimate authority and that law would be created and preserved through a democratic process. So it took us a couple of hundred years to get it on course- we’re still a young nation!
This is exactly why we should be treading very carefully when it comes to interfering in the lives of the people of Egypt despite what may be a more expedient option to protect our self-interests, which may in fact be a friendly military dictatorship.
If you identify yourself as a liberal- you’ve got to ask yourself by what right do you impose your will on a people who are now working to determine their own form of government? If you consider yourself a conservative, you’ve got to ask yourself what values, exactly, are you committed to conserve. Are you conserving the value of relative security in the short-term for the United States? Or the principle that…
“…Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to THEM (emphasis added) shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
These are dangerous times- and exciting. Will we assist the people of Egypt to continue the Revolution we so cherish as part of our legacy and heritage? This may require an incredible act of restraint- the best thing we might do to help the Egyptians is to do nothing at all- no matter how much that may cost in the short term in higher oil costs and Middle Eastern instability. We may have to be even more vigilant about immediate threats from radical groups against us. We may have to be prepared to jump into the game quickly should a legitimate movement of self-determination be threatened; even by an American friendly Egyptian military.
Most of all, we may have to accept a form of democracy that does not look like ours and in some ways, may not function like ours- in the United States or Canada.
Mistakes have been made as the United States has matured. It’s very difficult for us as contemporary people to understand in context the political and societal mindset of Americans in the 1950’s- barely weaned from ages of monarchy, theocracy, imperialism, colonialism and ethno-centric superiority. In many ways, we’re still in the early stages of this great experiment.
Did American interference in Iran in 1952 contribute to the problems we face today? That’s a reasonable deduction- but much has changed since that time. Only by returning to the most fundamental values of human liberty so clearly expressed by our Founders can we take the next step toward evolving the equality in basic human rights that they could write about, but in reality could only hope for.
Join us as we debate this issue live from New York City with special guest Andy Sullivan, founder of “The Hard Hat Pledge!”