With the fall of Hosni Mubarak, and Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, an interesting question could be raised about the future of the Arab world. Protests have happened in Yemen, and Algeria. Governments in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan have all taken measures to control the price of food, and necessities. The government in Iran is refusing permits for groups wanting to rally in support of the Egyptian movement. All over the Arab world autocratic regimes are taking note. They are realizing that even in a dictatorship, power rests on the support of the people. Sometimes it is true support and sometimes it is merely a fear of voicing opposition. In any case, if the people are determined enough they will always win. So, when we look at the Arab world today we have to ask,”Was Pres. Bush right?”
The answer is yes. Well, he was partially right. A people taking control of their destiny, forcing out a dictator is inspirational to other nations. Egypt is providing people in other countries with the sense that they could do the same thing. Pres. Bush wasn’t completely right, though. While the possible rise of Egyptian democracy will inspire others, the rise of Iraqi democracy really didn’t. The Bush Doctrine said if we put a stable democracy in Iraq other people in the Arab world we see the greatness of democracy and force their governments to embrace democratic reform. That didn’t exactly happen. We invaded Iraq in 2003 and 8 years later their democracy is still struggling. Why do I have more hope for Egypt? Why do I think Egypt could be the catalyst for change that Pres. Bush wanted Iraq to be? Simply put Iraq didn’t have a revolution. The Iraqi people did not stand up against Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi people didn’t fight for their freedom. We did it for them. True freedom only comes to people who want it bad enough. Egypt had a homegrown revolution. People from all walks of life, all ages, all religions, stood up as one voice and said, “We’ve had enough. Give us our freedom.” That’s the difference. The Egyptian people stood together. In both Iraq, and Afghanistan we have run into populations that have more division that consensus. Iraqis see themselves as Sunni, Shi’ite, or Kurdish. Afghanistan is a loose collection of tribes that are as likely to war with each other as they are with the U.S. or Al-Qaeda. If they do not want to work together it will be very difficult for any central government to make them.
Pres. Bush was right that people living under a dictator could be driven to demand freedom. Seeing another country throw off the shackles of autocracy could cause a domino effect. He was wrong, like so many Presidents before him, that we could make it happen through military might. You can’t free a people. You can help, but they have to want it. Pres. Obama was criticized early in the Egyptian protests for not supporting pro-democracy groups. He should have spoken more strongly. It is hard to sell the idea that we want to spread democracy, unless your dictator is helping us out. America’s pro-democracy activities around the world are hypocritical at best. Mubarak was an ally. He was very helpful. His government provided a moderate vision in an unstable region. They even had a relationship with Israel. He was also a brutal dictator, and when the people stood up to remove him the U.S. should have been very vocal in their support. It was a tight rope for the Obama administration. While they may have wavered a bit, I think they made it from one side to the other. Now, we must provide all the support we can to helping Egypt on a course to democracy. Today the question of whether Pres. Bush was right is irrelevant. The question should be how can we insure that the vision of a free Arab world comes true.