Democracy, like an unwanted surprise visit from a relative, is lauded in the Mideast as long as it is confined to someone else’s country

Mehdi Karroubi, an opposition leader, said in an interview last week that the opposition had decided to organize a day of demonstrations to underscore the double standard of the government in lauding protesters in Arab countries while suppressing those at home.

from the New York Times article “Iran Uses Force Against Protests as Region Erupts” by Neil MacFarquhar and Alan Cowell, February 14th, 2011


During our morning coffee, I had mentioned to my wife that an article in today’s New York Times which reported that Iranian authorities will not hesitate to crush demonstrations with deadly force, coincided with my post from a day earlier in which I wrote the following:

In a somewhat ironic twist, and taking into account Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear capability that would indeed pose a threat to the rest of the world, the prospects of an overflow of a revolution by the democratically inclined youths of Arab neighbors is likely to be met with a violent, self-preserving response.

I then went on to write that such actions of the part of the Iranian government might provide enough justifiable leverage for the Obama Administration to diplomatically squash the (Egyptian) pro-democracy movement in favor of a stabilized military dictatorship that will be kept in place for the benefit of (both regional and global) peace.

Her response was to compliment me on my prognosticative prowess.  While my writing the day earlier wasn’t so much prognostication as it was common sense, it was still a nice compliment to start the day.

Here’s the thing, can America sit back and let pro-democracy movements in other parts of the Arab world gain even greater momentum if it risks igniting an increasingly agitated extremist leadership in Iran to take unprecedented action in terms of self-preservation?  Conversely, does America or the Western world for that matter, have the political jam to support a democratic shift  given the unfavorable circumstances of today when, in 1952 they chose to undermine Iran’s move into a meaningful democracy under far more favorable conditions (for democratic freedom to grow).

After all, in 1952 the battle lines were clearly drawn between two openly established enemies being the US and the Soviet Union.  It was an era in which one could more readily make the distinction between the good guys and the bad guys, with the principles of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech being the linchpin of the American way.  Yet, US foreign policy chose to quash democracy in favor of oil.

Now nearly 60 years later, freedom of assembly and freedom of speech are still concepts that are being pursued under the threat of death by Iran’s pro-democracy youth.  While America will not likely intervene directly in Iranian affairs the way they had back in 1952, they can indirectly cool down a highly explosive region by continuing to support the military in Egypt versus fanning the flames of freedom that could potentially lead to unimaginable instability.  In essence, what oil was to the west in 1952, regional stability is to the west in 2011.  Yes I know, oil is still at the core of foreign interest in the region . . . I doubt that anyone would give a second thought if all the Mideast had to offer was desert air and nice beaches.

However, the main difference is that US intervention in 1952 was at the prompting of the British Government who in turn was being pushed into taking action by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (an entity that ultimately became British Petroleum).   In short, the issue was oil, and Iranian democracy got in the way.

In 2011, stability in the region is the most crucial concern for the Obama Administration, and like Iranian democratic aspiration in 1952, Egyptian democracy is potentially getting in the way today.

So once again, I have to ask the question . . . given the opportunity for a redo, will America support its values or its foreign interests?

Stay tuned, because it should be a very interesting and intense next couple of weeks.

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About piblogger

Author and Host of the PI Window on The World Show on Blog Talk Radio. View all posts by piblogger

One response to “Democracy, like an unwanted surprise visit from a relative, is lauded in the Mideast as long as it is confined to someone else’s country

  • jimbouchard

    A very interesting challenge to American ethics.

    Should Obama openly support sustained military control of Egypt, he’s standing on dangerous ground and in so doing jettisons the last of the core principles he ran upon.

    Liberals should be outraged at any support of a military dictatorship in Egypt. Of course, to preserve their values they will have to set-aside their natural propensity toward patriarchal altruism.

    It takes strength not to interfere- no matter how valuable you think your interference is for others.

    Conservatives should ironically support any non-action by the Obama administration. The bones of American society may be the Constitution, but the heart remains the Declaration of Independence. If we’re to conserve core American values we must conserve above all Egypt’s right to self-determination.

    In this case non-interference may be the only responsible course of action.

    At the same time, risky as it may be- should the Egyptian military move to solidify it’s power America should be prepared to withdraw it’s support.

    It seems there is a new generation of Egyptian soldier. Their treatment of the protesters was not accidental- they are part of this movement. The only thing that remains to be determined is whether a new dictator is waiting in the wings.

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