By Maya ’12
Beyond the fact that the Egyptian Revolution may just be the defining moment of our generation, the recent events in North Africa have shed light on one of the greatest American fallacies. From the beginning of this country’s founding, American citizens have believed that they stand for democracy. Betterment. Freedom of choice. But this ardent belief is far from reality.
Starting in the early 1800s with the formation of the Haitian Republic, the United States has failed to recognize and support democratic governments that do not stand in accordance with our interests, choosing instead to support whatever form of governance is most advantageous to us. The 1960s were plagued with US-backed Latin American dictators, and many people suffered as we funneled cash into the hands of brutal regimes. In 2007, when the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip democratically voted Hamas into power, the United States refused to legitimize the Islamist government, in spite of their overwhelming popularity due to their terrorist affiliations, and yet we currently tolerate the unconscionable, anti-Semitic, sexist, Wahabist authorities in Saudi Arabia due to our dependence on their oil. And then there was Egypt, a dictatorial government we backed for over 30 years at the expense of human rights violations that ranged from restricted freedoms of expression to merciless torture.
We as Americans have to decide where we stand when it comes to our democratic values. With the world now well aware of our hypocrisy, we can no longer one day have our president declare our solidarity in the “struggle for the universal rights that we must all uphold” and then the next day have our Secretary of State stammer words of compromise to both pro- and anti-Mubarak forces in an attempt to quell a democratic breakthrough in a country whose dearth of political and social opportunities suits our needs just fine. In choosing not to declare allegiance to the people of Egypt until Mubarak’s downfall was imminent, the United States showed once again just how situational our support is. We supported Mubarak to protect our interests, funded his army to maintain good relations, and now we are trying to do the same with the people of Egypt whose oppression we have been financing for decades. The reasons for our dithering were good ones—in supporting corrupt Egypt, we were protecting our ally Israel and therefore regional stability—but to say now that we support the people of Egypt due to their desire to form a democratic state is a lie.
We need to stop being sanctimonious and confess once and for all, not only to the world but to ourselves, that our stability and regional interests, not worldwide democracy, are all that we truly care about. It is the domino effect that worries us, because if the revolutions truly start rolling, what does that mean for US, our power and our liberties?