Americans should support Egyptian democracy

Left&Right3 copyBy Andrew Revord
News Editor

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” reads the Declaration of Independence.
From this bold statement, one would get the impression that this would apply to any group of people, including those in Egypt and the rest of the Middle East, right?
Well, some Americans are unsure if the Egyptian revolution really a good thing.
The revolution, which began on Jan. 25 and climaxed Feb. 11 with the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak, is not over.  Mubarak is gone, but that doesn’t mean that Egyptians have achieved democracy yet.

It is natural for us Americans for us to worry if Egypt will now become an Iranian-style theocracy led by the Muslim Brotherhood, or for another dictator to simply walk in and return to business as usual in Egypt.
Some Americans like conservative television show host Glenn Beck, have argued that Mubarak, despite his flaws, was the only one keeping Egypt from becoming something much, much worse.
First, the Muslim Brotherhood is not ideologically unified.  There are some hard-liners, but there are also reformers who wish to bring some democratic values to Egypt.  The Brotherhood, though a significant player in Egyptian politics, is too small and too divided to take over the country.
Furthermore, the Egyptian people just wouldn’t let themselves be governed by a theocracy, because Egyptian culture is generally more tolerant and informed than other Arab nations.
Egypt is largely considered to be the jewel of the Arab world’s crown.  Christians exist in relative peace with the Muslims.  Women in Western dress walk alongside women in headscarves in the streets of Cairo.  Most Egyptians are more educated, informed, and place higher value democratic ideals than their neighbors.  They’re simply not the types to fall for the Brotherhood’s way of thinking.
During the Cold War, America backed many brutal regimes in Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East to keep the Communists from taking power in those countries.  We’ve been doing the same thing in the 21st century to keep terrorist groups like al-Quaeda from gaining power.  This is why we supported Mubarak; he was a generally pro-western leader who kept the Muslim Brotherhood, largely considered to be al-Queda’s grandfather, in check.
The problem is: this plan can frequently backfire.
Ask the Shah of Iran about that one.  We supported him for most of the same reasons we supported Mubarak.  We even allowed him to take control of Iran at a time when Iran was showing interest in democratic reforms.
But because of his brutality and unpopularity, he was overthrown by his people in 1979.
The bottom line is: it doesn’t matter how much a dictator likes America if his own people don’t even like him.
To be fair, Mubarak was no Saddam Hussein, but he wasn’t Gandhi either.  But the same was true of the British King George III during the American Revolution.  In fact we rebelled just because we felt over-taxed and under-represented by the British government, not because we were otherwise being horribly oppressed.
But because, like King George, stubborn old Mubarak just wouldn’t listen to his people, he’s now in need of a new job.
The Obama administration and the US had a golden opportunity to firmly side with the Egyptians during the revolution, which would now have made us heroes.
As I write this column, protests across the Arab world are taking place.  Tunisia has already ousted its leader.  Libya is the current hotspot of revolution and Yemen and Bahrain are heating up too.
We have two choices: we can ignore the cries of freedom rising up in the Middle East, or we can embrace their shared values and stand in solidarity with them.  But if we choose the former, we might want to stop looking to the Declaration of Independence as the inspiration of our values.