It’s a valid question. What if President Hosni Mubarak were a communist? Would the United States be calling on him to resign in the face of widespread protests? We all know the answer to this question, and it’s a resounding yes.
Throughout the Cold War, the United States pressed the argument against the Soviet Union and its bloc that they were not, despite what they claimed, free. And they weren’t. The United States assumed a position of moral authority in the global struggle against communism based on the fact, and solely on the fact, that what we stood for, freedom, what an absolute good, in and of itself, free from political consideration or advantage*.
That resolve to stand up for liberty on the behalf of the downtrodden, namely in Egypt, seems to be weakening. The United States official policy regarding instability in Egypt is that we don’t have a policy. For fear of angering Mubarak should he survive the protests, and also to be seen as not interfering in the internal affairs of another Arab state, we’re basically staying mum on the topic. Because, honestly, if we were to aggressively push for Mubarak’s resignation, that probably wouldn’t play to well on the Arab street, given the level of resentment against us in the wake of the US occupation of Iraq. So, in a way, we’re damned if we do, and damned if we don’t.
But, really, what I’d like to see from this Administration is a full throated, unrestrained, unqualified call for liberty in Egypt. This being politics, there’s lot of ways to do it that could be seen to put the US in a much more favorable light. But we shouldn’t do it for the positive publicity (though that never hurts). We should do it because not only is it the right thing to do, but because we talk the talk. Some would say we’ve talked it to death. Now we ought to walk the walk. It’s not a coincidence that the majority of the signs that we see protesters holding aloft on television are in English. They’re addressing a global community, namely, us, Mubarak’s biggest supporter.
We’re holding back on calling for Mubarak’s ouster for a lot of reasons. We’ve loaded him up with as much cash and advanced weaponry as he can handle. He’s better than the Muslim Brotherhood. He may not be great, but the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know. Basically, he’s awful, but he’s less awful than what might potentially spring up in his absence. Democracy is messy and chaotic. Look at Florida in November 2000. It’s unpredictable, uncertain, and therefore scary to human beings. But, at the end of the day, it’s a lot better, not to mention more stable, to actively promote democracy across the world, than to prop up an aging gerontocracy of which we ought to have been ashamed decades ago.
*This isn’t to say that the United States was angelic throughout the Cold War. We did some pretty awful things. And we ought to keep that in mind. But many more people today are free because we resolutely contained the spread of communism across the globe.