Revolution Egypt: No American Intervention Necessary
It is positively inspiring to see what’s happening in Tunisia and Egypt these days. When the Tunisian people successfully ousted their corrupt rulers, the Ben Ali family, I wrote about how this may be just the tip of the iceberg in a new global era of human rights through a series of revolutions brought about by the unprecedented powers of communication available to ordinary people through the internet. Inspired by their success, the Egyptian people are now attempting a revolution of their own and appear to be right on the verge of ousting their own leader, Mubarak.
If this trend continues, there is good reason to be optimistic about humanity’s long-term future. The internet contributed enormously to help the people of Tunisia and Egypt get a clearer view of what life was like outside their countries and show them that things could be better. It’s what allowed them to read leaked documents confirming that their governments were corrupt, and it’s what allowed them to organize their uprisings and get the word out to the rest of the world. If the internet can help to facilitate this much change after only a couple of decades in existence, imagine what it has the potential to do over the course of the next century.
I won’t delve into the details of what’s happening in Egypt. The Huffington Post has a great live feed of the latest news as it breaks, and this piece by an Egyptian who returned there from America in the midst of the uprising paints a wonderfully vivid picture of the situation on the ground for those who are interested. I only want to make a point that I hope I start hearing more often in the American media:
This should prove once and for all that United States military force is not required to advance the ideals of freedom and democracy elsewhere in the world. When people suffer under corrupt or brutal regimes and those regimes continuously ignore the plight of the people while their abuses of power grow more and more egregious, eventually a tipping point is reached and the people rise up against them. True democracy can only established from the ground up—it can’t be imposed by an external force.
When weapons of mass destruction were not found in Iraq, the people responsible for that invasion started pretending that the actual justification was to liberate the Iraqi people, and now they claim that because Saddam Hussein is gone the whole operation can be considered a success. Something similar can be said about Afghanistan—while 9/11 was the initial reason for going in, our rationale for staying there now is to prevent the Afghan people from having to suffer under the brutal rule of the Taliban.
Well, the events in Egypt and Tunisia should blow giant holes straight through these justifications, as one can easily imagine the Iraqi people eventually overthrowing Saddam Hussein themselves, or the Afghan people eventually rising up against the Taliban and achieving for themselves the goal that the United States is supposedly aiming to achieve for them. Both revolutions could conceivably result in far fewer civilian casualties than those we’ve inflicted, as neither the governments of Iraq or Afghanistan nor their oppressed peoples have F-16s or predator drones.
While we all would love to see the people of the Middle East enjoy the same kinds of freedoms we have, trying to force these ideals on societies that may not be ready for them almost always results in disaster. And more importantly, the regimes that we have set up in these countries are not really any more democratic than those they replaced. They may be less brutal, but they are still corrupt and unresponsive to the needs of the people. We didn’t bring real democracy to these people—we merely replaced their old leaders with leaders more willing to play ball with us.
Revolutions that happen organically may not be in the best interests of the United States, but we have to accept that. Indeed, this particular revolution in Egypt is quite the inconvenience for our government today, as Mubarak was one of those leaders willing to play ball. If a new regime takes power, it may not cooperate so easily but it will be far more legitimate.
For a revolution to succeed it must be driven by the will of the people. We may wish that the people of the Middle East would hurry up and demand their basic human rights for the poor, for women, homosexuals, non-Muslims, and every other oppressed group, but rather than try to force these changes through military might we ought to be patient and trust that these changes will happen on their own just as they happened here. The people out in the streets of Egypt today are the younger generation who grew up with the internet and who are well aware of how much better life can be for their fellow citizens. As time goes on this knowledge will become more widespread, more universally accepted, and eventually a tipping point will be reached in each and every society in which the people demand fundamental changes. At least that’s what we should hope for.
[If you share my hope for a worldwide transformation over the next century, I hope you’ll consider joining Revolution Earth.]