Middle East Uprisings: What Did We Expect?
The West needs to realize its mistakes and act quickly before any more surprises in the Middle East start to pose threats. (Also read Michael Totten: "North African Dominoes?")
February 13, 2011 - 10:40 am
No, really. Did we expect Hosni Mubarak to rule for another decade and then quietly die in a hospital in Switzerland and transfer the presidency to Gamal Mubarak? Or did we expect him to hand over power to Omar Suleiman or another military man? Is that how the West expected its alliances to not crumble?
The truth is, we — and by that I mean all the pro-democracy/anti-Islamic fundamentalist crew — had no plans. The fort in Egypt was going to be held by Mubarak and Co. and that’s that. We simply slept and concentrated on the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda. Heck, nobody even mentioned the Muslim Brotherhood or paid heed to warnings from people with experience in Middle Eastern affairs that after the protests in Iran in 2009, things were not going to be the same. That is until the wave of protests in Tunisia hit us with the truth.
And the truth is we didn’t make the right allies. The men who rule much of the Islamic world with an iron fist aren’t there to protect the West from the coming “caliphate,” which I might add is a laughable idea. (You need only see the bickering between Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan to realize that a united Islamic empire is a dream that will never come to fruition).
Middle Eastern dictators are allies to themselves only. Of course, if they can consolidate their power by pandering to Western demands a bit, they will. To them, Islamic fundamentalism is just as scary as political dissidents who want democracy, civil rights, and economic prosperity. Yet we are wondering who will be the next ally to fall and ignoring the obvious question: how do we make allies with the people?
Herein lies our first misconception: The West is allied with Egypt. The West was never allied with Egypt. It was allied with Mubarak. And something tells me that in hindsight, we were fully aware of this fact because now that there is a chance that the people of Egypt might rule themselves, we’re fearful of the alliance’s future. But few — even Emperor Obama I of the Freedom Federation — were willing to admit this before Cairo erupted in protests.
Again, what exactly did we expect? Why didn’t we start pressuring Mubarak before he was thrown out of office to bring about democratic reform? President Bush realized this and took a few steps. But why didn’t those steps transform into real action? Because we continuously treat Muslims and people from the Arab world as illiterate savages who will never learn the meaning of democracy, civil rights, and the power of the people to overthrow autocrats. They were not good enough to be allies, and only the brutal dictators that ruled them were reasonable to be friends with.
That gave rise to the second misconception: while Mubarak and Co. ruled with brutality, the only people who were concerned about the human rights situation in their domain lived in the West.
Two weeks ago, the night protesters in Tahrir Square were being fired upon from all sides by thugs and criminals with sniper rifles, and many in the West thought it was the end of the uprising. I got this message from a guy in the square: “There are women and children here. The thugs are shooting at us. I see people getting hit. I see blood. I know they want to force us out of here. But I won’t go. We want dignity. We want freedom. We want prosperity. Thirty years of oppression is simply too much for me to care about my life. Either Mubarak leaves or we all die here.”
Hours later, the thugs left. The square was never attacked as seriously again.
Why weren’t we trying to make alliances with people like him?