The American pharaoh

| Staff Columnist

As of today, protesters continue to flood the streets of Egypt demanding the removal of 30 year “President” Hosni Mubarak. The 82-year-old ruler’s response has been dissolving the government (except himself), releasing his thugs upon the protestors, and stating that he won’t run again in September. Mubarak further inflamed Egyptians by stating last week that if he stepped down as leader, the country would sink into chaos.

The Egyptian revolution is part of a much larger movement that has seen protests in Tunisia, Jordan, Syria, Yemen, Algeria and threatening oppressive dictators throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa. It all began in Tunisia, where a 26-year-old found his street cart confiscated by local police because he lacked a permit to sell produce in the street. Unable to meet with corrupt government officials and too poor to afford bribing them, Mohamed Bouazizi decided enough was enough. On Dec. 17, the young man burned himself in the streets in front of a government building. He died 18 days later and the protests soon followed. Tunisians sent President Ben Ali into exile following a twenty-three year reign and the rest of the region became engulfed in flames as well. Over a dozen people have since lit themselves on fire elsewhere to protest oppressive and unresponsive governments. Bouazizi’s mother responded by saying, “I have lost my son, but I am proud of what he did.”

It is still unclear whether the revolutions will yield positive results or if more oppressive rulers will fill the void. What is clear though is that the United States is determined to be a winner, but can only come out as a loser. As people of differing backgrounds, economic statuses and religions all unite against a common cause, the United States continues to funnel billions of dollars to ruthless dictators. In Hosni Mubarak’s 30 year reign as President of Egypt, our government has funneled billions in military assistance. This was seen on the streets this past week, as US taxpayer funded tanks, planes and weapons were used against the protestors. The Egyptians have awoken, but the United States continues to follow the same foreign policy of intervention around the globe. Rather than allowing Egyptians to choose their own path, our government has played a heavy role in determining their political future.

Immediately following the revolutions, Vice President Joe Biden said that Hosni Mubarak was not a dictator, but instead an ally of the United States. Protestors held up tear gas canisters used against them with the label, “Made in the U.S.A.” As Egyptians enter their second week of protests calling for a new leader, our government has endorsed its support for newly appointed Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman. This course of action is misguided and can only lead to further unintended consequences down the road.

Despite popular belief at home that ours is a nation “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” our track record in the Middle East and the Third World is horrendous. Rather than allow for local populations to decide their form of government, the American empire has been in the habit of supporting U.S.-friendly dictators around the globe for too long. This short-term solution creates artificial stability, but costly long-term consequences. Following decades of an oppressive U.S.-backed dictator in Iran, the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution in 1979 still has lingering effects today. Should we continue to support Mubarak and his friends, this fate is likely in Egypt.

The protests by angry citizens throughout the Middle East have done more to spread democracy than the American-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Time will tell whether this is a repeat of 1989 or just a temporary breath of freedom. Eventually though, citizens will have enough of their governments, just as Mohamed Bouazizi had enough in Tunisia.

The United States must return towards a Jeffersonian foreign policy of “Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations—entangling alliances with none.” The billions of taxpayer dollars pumped into governments around the world, including Egypt, need to be shut off. Our military, located in over a hundred countries around the globe, should be brought home. We need to accept that our involvement in areas around the globe creates resentment and anti-American sentiment. Regardless of our intentions, malicious or altruistic, our presence and influence is not needed to bring peace and stability. In fact, the uprisings are in spite of our presence and support for their dictators. Today, protestors are tossing the shackles off from decades of prolonged oppression. We must make sure we are not forging the shackles.

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