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Mubarak, his friends and the democracy concept
by Thanos Kalamidas
2011-02-05 10:22:55
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The last few days I, like so many others, have been watching the events in Egypt and wait for the day after to come not knowing if the outbreak will be followed by another twist of worries. The same time Hosni Mubarak is nothing more than one more name in the long list of “leaders” somewhere from South America to Far East who will follow the same way embarrassing first of all the ones who put him there and then supported him.

Power corrupts and friends with absolute power absolute corrupt and this is a play we saw just too many times the last few decades. Mubarak was there with the support and help of his western friends and their agendas. Despite all the contemporary anti-American, anti-European and anti-western yowls Mubarak was there to serve certain geopolitical agendas including the recognition of Israel and the role of a mediator between the Arab and the Israelis hawks. A “western democracy” in the middle of the Arab world and in one of the strongest Arab states.

I’m a bit older and that means that I have strong memories from the cold war when similar leaders with a little help from their friends came in power establishing only in name democracies and in reality ruthless dictatorships with the fear of the communist influence. Greece is one example, fearing the strongly coming socialist wave a dictatorship was established in mid-sixties with USA the first to recognize them as the “democratic” representative of a country that was suffering in prison cells and in exile.

In late seventies when Françoise Mitterrand was coming to take over the French presidency they even employed Nostradamus doomsday prophesies to stop him. And that was a light example of the boogieman then; the contemporary boogieman is Islam and we all saw the mistakes and the results of those mistakes in Iran during the Shah era. A dictator stood there with a lot of help from his western friends with one and only mission to support their interests and stop the Islam radicals from power; the result: the Islamic Republic of Iran and a regime that often wins in comparison the Shah in many points with the suspicions of hosting and supporting terrorism as a bonus.

And here we are, the people of Egypt had enough of an abusive and corrupted leader and 2011 is not 1960s, information travels fast. The people in Egypt know, they read and hear and they want the best, they want the alternative from a dictator with “democratic” overall and most of all they know what they don’t want and they don’t want Mubarak. The problem for the rest is what is coming next. When the western friends “freed” Iraq from Saddam they were expecting the people to come out of their house and put red welcome carpets, instead they found the bullets of the Islamic radicals and where there was only suspicion of terrorism today there are cells of al-Qaeda. The same story in Afghanistan - just to mention resent events and the thirst of freedom was replaced with an unlimited anti-western feelings.

And I’m afraid that this will expand fast, there are already marches in the streets of Jordan – another royal western friend and important ally and I’m afraid that despite Erdogan’s effects to show a more Islamic face, Turkey is not far behind. What seems difficult for the western friends to understand is that perhaps it is not the others who have problem with the democracy concept but us with the way we try to apply democracy to others. We are trying to apply to others a democracy that is convenient to us, our agendas and our interests and I’m afraid action brings reaction. How many more people will be killed in Egypt before the Egyptians will turn to the other side, the side that can host their anger just like the Iranians did with Khomeini? How can we explain that the Afghans have returned gradually to their captors, the Taliban? Instead of trying to find who to blame why don’t we try to check our mistakes and at least give an apology and change policy?

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Emanuel Paparella2011-02-05 11:19:52
Indeed, if the historical events of the French revolution in 1787 (which produced a Napoleon), the Russian revolution of 1917 (which produced a Stalin), China in the late forties (which produced a Mao), Cuba in the late fifties (which produced a Castro) and Iran in the late seventies (which produced a Komeni) teach us anything, it is that the elimination of despotism and tyranny by revolution does not necessarily translate in liberty and democracy for the people. Quite often one despotism is replaced by another worse one, all in the name of the people’s revolution. Machiavellian corrupt means are often employed to achieve an ideal theoretical goal, but the practical results are a corrupted end as well. In reality, nothing has changed. For, to change ideological brand and replace one dictatorship with another is to have changed precious little. Time will tell if sadly that will be the case in Egypt too. We Westerners ought to stop siding with “strong men” (in reality dictators) when they are convenient for our political and economic interests. It would be more principled by far and less hypocritical for us to side with our ideals even when they prove inconvenient to our real politik and economic interests; which is to say, true democracy implies imagination and courage, the Aristotelian will to truth rather than the Nietzschean will to power.

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