Democracy: Give it a Chance

A number of people, including a friend of mine, are of the opinion that we can’t allow the government in Yemen to collapse in case Muslim extremists take over. They had the same views on Egypt, and likely hold the same views on a great many other countries where strongmen rule, the people suffer and terrorists are held at bay. These people justify allowing brutal governments to remain in charge under the logic that, hey, at least they aren’t fostering terrorism against us!

These people are what you might call “wrong”.

See, here’s my thinking on this. I think we need to support democracy all over the world, even, perhaps especially, in countries we are friends with. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, all of these are countries where the people don’t enjoy even basic freedoms and live in fear of their governments. It’s not right to claim that they need to be held down so that we can have the illusion of safety.

We need to support their desire for freedom. Yes, they might turn around and put extremists in office (ie: Iran). It’s possible. Then they’d have a government that hates us, but the people might at least be friendly toward us (ie: Iran). I fail to see how keeping them oppressed makes them less likely to harbor terrorists and want to destroy us.

So let’s speak out and fight for them. Let’s also stand up and make real noise against other countries where the people are oppressed. Places like the Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea, the “Democratic” “Republic” of the Congo, and places like that. We need to stand up for these people’s rights, because often they can’t stand up on their own, and if we’re friends with governments that, at the very least, don’t allow people freedom of expression, then we really need to rethink our policies.


What Should America Do?

As events in Egypt drag on, the central question on the Sunday talk shows is what we should do about it. Many people seem to have the opinion that we should, at all costs, stop democratic reform in Egypt, since it might lead to an Islamic government that’s hostile to Israel. I think this is what we call “obnoxious”.

Here’s what we should do: stand up for the principles we claim to hold. Defend the Egyptian peoples’ right to self-determination. Call loudly for reforms in public, and then Obama needs to be on the phone calling firmly but privately for Mubarak to resign. Yes, there’s a chance that a democratic government in Egypt might end up being Islamist and hostile to Israel. That would suck. But if that happens, it means that there needs to be a PR campaign to change the hearts and minds of the Egyptian people rather than the current situation, where there’s peace because a dictator is stomping out any possibility of no peace.

Besides, we should trust the Egyptian people. They have had thirty years of peace and diplomacy with Israel. There’s no reason to assume that’s going to suddenly disappear if they are allowed the same freedoms as we enjoy.

Ultimately in the long run we need to stop propping up anti-democratic regimes simply because we happen to like what their leader is doing for us. It’s a bad, odious habit that always comes back to bite us in the ass (Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are great examples of this). Either we are a country that supports freedom and democracy for everyone or we’re just a bunch of self-interested hypocrites. I know which I’d rather we be.

The Aftermath

And so it is done, my friends, aside from a last couple clean-up jobs. The Democrats have control of the House, the Senate and the White House. We don’t have a veto-proof majority in the Senate, and it’s unlikely we’ll end up with such once the last four races are settled, but we do have a solid majority.

There’s a lot of work to do, as I’ve mentioned before. We must show ourselves equal to the challenge. The people have put their faith in the Democratic Party and we must live up to their expectations. We must show them that our way, the way of hope, equality, diplomacy and fairness, is better than the way of despair, fear, hate and warfare.

The people have given us a reason to hope. Now we have to justify that hope.