A Great Day for Idealists

So much for the idea that democracy is some kind of “Western” value that is unsuitable or even unwanted in some cultures. Egyptians have proven what cynical rot that is.

They have proven the power of ideals. That when enough people want freedom and justice enough, it can be achieved, overcoming great obstacles. But this is not new news. How many times have we seen this play out? How many authoritarian regimes, seemingly rocks of impregnable “stability,” have fallen? When will we learn that the only genuinely stable regime is a democratic one where government is accountable to the people, and they have the freedom to pursue their dreams? And that that’s the only sort of stability worth having?

In Cairo today

But it’s not easy. Mubarak didn’t hold power for thirty years because he was a pushover. I bow in reverence to the people of Egypt, for their great courageous efforts in seizing control of their destiny. It’s easy for me to pontificate in the comfort of this free and peaceable country. I don’t know if I would have had the courage to put my life on the line for my beliefs like they did. Some of them did sacrifice their lives. And in every story like this, there are always – always – people ready to do this. I love humanity for it.

The Economist’s “Lexington” columnist, who writes about America, says that George Bush, with his vision for democracy in the Middle East, so widely mocked by cynics, suddenly looks a lot more clever than his critics (click here). It would be a stretch to draw a straight line between Bush’s aim in Iraq, to sow a seed for democracy throughout the region, and what has happened in Egypt (and Tunisia). But history is a complex tangled skein, and who can say whether, had Iraq not happened, Tunisia and Egypt would not have happened?

And, now that they have happened, let us see what will happen in Syria, and Libya, and Saudi Arabia, and all the rest.

This is a great day for Egypt, and a great day for America – for the ideals America represents. America’s interests are best served by a world of democratic societies. I am not afraid of democracy in any country. I don’t believe a majority of people in Egypt, or anywhere (including Iran), want the kind of regime Iran has. Iran was not a democratic revolution – it was a revolution hijacked by a bunch of gangsters wrapping themselves in a false cloak of religious piety. Let us hope the people of Egypt are not similarly traduced.

Berlin Wall, 1989

Thomas Jefferson, in the last thing he ever wrote, expressed the dream that America’s idea of self-government and human rights would in time spread throughout the world: “to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all.” I have always hoped I’d live to see it. Today, that dream took a big step closer to realization.


3 Responses to “A Great Day for Idealists”

  1. Steve G. Says:

    Maybe a great day. Some revolutions, French, Russian, Chinese, show that tyranny can follow the downfall of a corrupt and tyrannical regime. Certainly democracy is a lot more than voting, and it requires a civil society to support it. I hope that Egypt follows the path onto democracy and the rule of law, but I think that the future still hangs in the balance.

    FSR RESPONSE: You should read my other recent blog post about Egypt, about 2 weeks back, titled “The Last Pharaoh,” which I think addressed your points. Thanks.

  2. Lee Says:

    Oh, it’s definitely scary. It is entirely possible that the “transition” will not lead to democracy. We should do what we can to help democracy come out on top.

    And it is entirely possible that even a democracy will lead Egypt into conflict with us on foreign policy issues. But I’m with Churchill on this, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”! In other words, even if we fear that the odds of a humane, peaceful, democratic Egypt are bad, at least they are better than they would have been.

  3. Egypt: Bullets or Ballots? « The Rational Optimist Says:

    […] last post about Egypt (2/11/11) may have been overly euphoric. Forgive me that. Life’s path is never simple. It’s two […]

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