Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Hated West, Freedom, Democracy, Iraq and the Middle East: Irony

Maysoon Shaladi (ex-pat, living in UK tweeting about Libyan uprising, angry with lack of western coverage or pressure on the situation, paraphrasing Lincoln)

Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves

If there was any irony to be had from the current multiple situations in the Middle East, it is the continuing reviling of the dratted "West", demands for western interference in the name of obtaining democracy, damning the west for supporting dictators, denigrating the "late" coming of western governments to supporting their cause even as they scream for them to stay out now, using twitter and facebook (a western invention only available due to the freedom to think and create) to stoke their revolutionary fire, all under the guise of democratic aspirations (arguably a western Greco-Humanist-Christian concept though I am certain I have had an argument with an Islamic acquaintance in the past who insisted it was an Islamic invention).

I have to say that with some of my own irony even as I support their democratic aspirations with the full knowledge that some of my friends may not get exactly what they expected without another fight, as other alleged democratic uprisings are likely to result in some unfriendly and dangerous situations coming to fruition (Yemen comes to mind immediately) without true democracy.

Neither can I forget the absolute reviling of the West over Iraq and the final institution of democracy (yes, at gun point) that did exactly what it was supposed to do: give an Arab people their own government and the Middle East the idea that people CAN rule themselves democratically, regardless of race or religion. That it was the dreaded Neo-Con (alleged Jewish conspiracy still being bruted about in reputed and allegedly non-partisan ME news sites) that expressed that idea and pushed leaders in the ME to institute some form of liberality and representation in their governments.

While it cannot be said that the Neo-Cons started the idea brewing in the minds of people in the ME (it has been there for awhile, considering their long interaction with western democracies and various attempts at establishing representative governments), it was the dreaded head Neo-Con, president Bush, that pushed, prodded and pulled these governments to let off some of the levers of oppression in the recent past. The Domino Theory of Democracy. How ironic is it that some writer for an ME news organization actually says that the Neo-Cons did not believe that Arab, Islamic people were ready for democracy.

Bush left, the Neo-Cons went out of power and the realpolitik folks took over and were left holding the bag. Apparently crossing their fingers on both hands that that little sortie into meddling had little effect or could be contained. Dictators sighed with relief and tried to go back to business as usual.

Freedom is the fire in the minds of men. Now it's a conflagration.

Of course, the ME is all abounding with fears that the west (new friends) is trying to "steal" Egypt's revolution by rushing in with assistance post mortem. That is ironic and extremely humorous in a gallows sort of way. Sorry, but we've been there all along and in the way of all friends, not everything we did seemed in our friends' best interests as, with all friends, there is always some kind of ego and self interest apparent.

Case in point, even as a "late comer", had the western nations not warned off Mubarek, the Egyptian Military and now the Bahrain government from smashing freedom of expression, the blood shed in these nations would have been so much more worse (for sure, the Bahraini's would not have pulled back their military and allowed the people to occupy the square again after the last few days of attempted violent suppression). We don't have the same power in Yemen or Libya, nor am I sure we want to exercise it in light of who might be demanding the overthrow of the government.

I know...ironic. Or, to our ME friends, hypocritical. I can't wait until they have to make their own decisions about which way their country goes and how often they must compromise in the name of their own security. It is, ironically, easier to blame outsiders and some dictator for the things we are not directly responsible for. Not so easy when we have no one to blame but ourselves.

On the other hand, it wasn't American blood being spilled and we certainly did not occupy Tahrir or Pearl Square in the name of the people. It is their revolutions after all. We are merely interested by standers, pushing and pulling, praying for the best even as we look on with extreme trepidation and the sure knowledge that we can do little to help or hinder in either direction, but expending great political capital and possible future security to do. So that, in the end, we are doing as people have so ironically screamed that we are not: standing by our basic principles of freedom and democracy.

One can't give too much credit to the Neo-Con faction I suppose. The idea that freedom and democracy would counter any despotic and oppressive idea was imagined a long time ago by people much more thoughtful and intelligent than we poor substitutes. It was brought forth as a foreign policy by Truman and nursed throughout the Cold War in various forms with much back and forth on its support and many, many mis-steps along the way. Even the Great Liberator Reagan was not adverse to supporting despotism in the short run while pushing freedom some place else.

The entire idea was that short of actual military interference, people would naturally come to that conclusion by simple interaction with western democracy through social, political and economic means. Hence, the fall of the USSR and the eastern block. It has been and continues to be a very long, slow road with plenty of twists and turns that prevent a reliable predictor of the future, but it is the long view of democratic nations.

And, the irony of all ironies is that, with every creation of a democracy, with every inch forward of freedom, the US and other nations will see their power diminish as new competition arrives in the form of newly freed minds and economies with states working towards their own interests. Shooting ourselves in the foot and destroying the idea of American Exceptionalism for the basic principle:

"all men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness"

Yes, ALL MEN (and women, too). There was never such a grand idea with the such a potential, inherent self-destruct mechanism.

It is, of course, bad form to expect any gratitude for a supposedly selfless gift (more irony as it isn't exactly selfless; the hoped for purpose is to expand alliances, open markets and create over arching security, but that is another post). We are ever humble in the face of Liberty (yes, yes, I said "humble") and the sure knowledge that it is the Free Will and a thinking brain given by our common Creator that provides us the basis democratic government (more irony as my atheist friends would insist that mind was created through eons of natural evolution, but that, as I said before, is another post).

So, with all of the irony that is inherent in this rambling post, I leave the (paraphrased) words of a great western actress, Betty Davis, instead of "your welcome" or even "congratulations" (as in a previous post) to our newly liberated friends and those struggling for something similar.

"Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy ride."

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