I don’t write about Foreign Affairs often, mainly because there are those out there who are much more knowledgable than I, but it is difficult to watch scenes like those in Egypt and Tunisia without commenting.
I would like this to be a post asking for solidarity with the Egyptian people who have shown more courage than I could imagine. But I can’t get away from the feeling that the next stage of this is a challenge for us in the West.
For 30 years Mubarak has ruled at the expense of his own people, not for their benefit. But he did not do this alone. It was our need for a presence in the Middle East, Egypt’s geopolitical significance for our various ill advised travails in that region that kept him there. It was our economic system, which allowed the IMF to treat Egypt as a model nation after they imposed barbaric austerity measures on their own people- austerity measures which have lasted 20 years. It is our allowance of banks like Goldman Sachs to demand that they be given the freedom to speculate on food prices, that allowed food prices to rise so far that they are exacerbating the hardship of people in Egypt. It is our need to protect Israel while they terrorise the people of Gaza, that ensures that Egypt must remain in our pocket. And last night, in the comments of John Kerry, William Hague, and President Barack Obama we saw that this is not something we are going to give up easily.
When the people of Egypt cry that they want Mubarak out, what they are crying is for an end to our treatment of them, and their country, as little more than a proxy for us, and our destructive economic system.
I would love to think that now people across that region are rising up, that in the name of the democracy and freedom we pretend to hold dear that we would respect their very clear statement.
Unfortunately, that is not our modus operandi. The difference in coverage from Al JAzeera and the BBC was very telling. With language from the BBC already framing this as people creating instability, preparing us to treat the Egyptian people as potential terrorists-the question is now for us. Are we going to undermine whatever emerges from this situation, and keep a nation unstable until they have installed someone else who will punish their people for our benefit? Will we prop up a dictator who the Egyptian people have clearly said they do not want? Are we ready to understand that we do not, and never did have, the right to treat entire nations as accessories to further our own interests? TO treat Egypt as a sovereign nation with a right to self determination?
I think not.
It is not Mubarak who will punish the Egyptian people for demanding the things that we pretend to embody. It is us.
So I break with habit, and comment on foreign affairs because I am a British Citizen. And if my government, and the US behave the way they always have, in the face of the courage shown over recent weeks- I want it known that it is not in my name.