Whatever happens from hence, the future cannot be recalled. At this junction, it is an airborne projectile unfettered by the strap of the sling. And, so, if anyone for a moment believe recent events in North Africa are a transient aberration, which should soon self-correct, he or she must truly belong to another time – one in which horses and carriages are the closest thing to an automobile.
In a world which New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman describes as flat, homogenized ideals and expectations are no longer some far-fetched machinations of deviant minds or some fanatical fringe of society. With a steady rise in the global middle class, and the instant education provided by today’s technology, no one anywhere is any longer doomed to a vacuum-like existence. Citizens everywhere are now gravitating toward self-determination, and see monocracy (in whatever form it appears), not only as a putrid relic from antiquity, but also as a gross immorality that kills the human spirit.
To this extent, the people of Tunisia deserve immense praise for bringing an abrupt end to the 22-year-reign of erstwhile dictator, Ben Ali, and marshaling the fortunes of their own future. And more importantly, for the courage they have provided their neighbor, the Egyptians, to seek out their own destiny.
Unfortunately, Hosni Mubarak, the president of Egypt for the last 30 years has not shown the wisdom Ben Ali exercised after several mass protests, which was to flee the country with his tail between his legs. Instead, he has met peaceful Egyptians with police batons and tear gas, water cannons, and even an organized mob wielding machetes and Molotov cocktails amongst other weaponry.
But what has been most deafening in all these has been the silence of the United States, the globe’s biggest campaigner for democracy and human dignity.
For 30 years, Mr. Mubarak has jailed, beaten, and killed his way to maintaining a strangle-hold on power in this ancient state. Yet, his unequivocal support for peace with Israel has made him an indispensable dictator in the world of American foreign policy.
The stability of the Arab world’s most populous nation, which Obama administration officials cite as the reason for being tepid on pushing Mr. Mubarak, has been myopic at best. As David Brooks of the New York Times astutely noted in a recent column, “Autocracies are more fragile than any other form of government, by far.”
It was wise in the first couple of days for the Obama administration to restrain its tongue and not jump the gun; to see how bad the people of Egypt really wanted their freedom after so many years of economic and political oppression. It became absurd and foolish to maintain such indecisive posture once the people made it clear, come hell or high water, Mr. Mubarak had to go.
It is clear; Mubarak is no Julius Caesar, on whose death Romans sought the heads of his killers. Mr. Mubarak hitherto has been graceless in his years in power, and left next to nothing for the average Egyptian to find desirable.
It is now obvious to the world that it’s official U.S. policy to advocate democracy and human dignity in those places in the world where her interests stand little chance of being threatened. To say this is high hypocrisy is an understatement and does great injustice to the word “hypocrisy” itself. It is unbecoming of a nation which seeks that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Let there be no doubt about it, the brave people of Egypt will achieve their freedom. And once they do, the words of Martin Luther King, jr. stand to take a menacing prominence, as many Egyptians are already vocalizing: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
By choosing to not out-rightly demand that Mr. Mubarak abdicate the presidential palace immediately, and by not advising him not to be part of any transitional government (as the people have continually stated), the Obama administration might have just crystallized its fear into reality – distancing itself from a new generation of Arabs at its direst hour of need.
History has no patience; it writes itself with every act of decision or indecision. Now is the time for the United States to act like that city on a hill, and help the courageous people of Tahrir Square.