This week, hordes of citizens tired of high taxes and government oppression are storming the streets calling for change. No, this isn’t a Tea Party protest. So is the U.S. helping to free a people using the tactics employed in the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, or the Rose Revolution in Georgia? No. In fact, the U.S. government, it appears, would rather see all this freedom-loving activism just go away.
The likely reason you’ll see no help from America is that the nations yearning to be free are Arab. And these nations have dictators who have, over the years, been very cooperative with the United States. Many of the leaders have been “duly elected” (I would say dubiously elected) for decades. For instance, in Tunisia, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali held power for 23 years before his recent ouster. Egypt’s Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak has been in office for 30 years, Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh for 21 years (Yemen’s first and only president so far), and Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika for 12 years. Jordan and Morocco make no pretension that political change is even a possibility. The two countries are ruled by kings, Abdullah II and Mohammed VI, respectively. At the top of the list is Saudi Arabia,where there have been no reports of protests, not surprising given that protesters are probably too afraid for their lives to demonstrate. Remember, this is the same country where most of of the 9/11 hijackers originated.
The power-hungry leaders of these countries have been some of America’s closest allies in the Middle East. Placated by hefty deals for weapons and an American blind eye to human rights violations, these countries have muted their public disdain for Israel and allied themselves with the U.S. against Iran (these are mostly Sunni-dominated countries while Iran is Shiite-dominated, which helped them pick sides with the U.S.). The price for allegiance has been the freedom of their people.
When CNN plays images of Arabs dancing in the streets when terror strikes the United States, it shouldn’t surprise anyone. Arabs view the United States as the mercenary state that is propping up their despotic leaders. In American history classes, young children are often told of the brutal Hessian mercenary soldiers hired by King George to help the English fight against the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. To many Arabs, America fulfills the same role as the Hessians – a hired gun protecting the interests of autocratic rulers.
The most common argument for all this hypocritical U.S. action in the Middle East, is that if America allows the people of Muslim-Arab countries to be fully free, these countries will become Islamic nations ruled by Sharia law, spawning terrorists with a mission to destroy the United States. Think about that logic, it doesn’t make sense. Who do you think is more likely to become a radical terrorist, someone with no freedom living under a despot, or someone who has a voice in his own government and an outlet for peaceful change? With the 9/11 hijackers mostly coming from Saudi Arabia – an oppressive monarchy – I think the answer is obvious. Also, the current protests seem to be broad-based, and not led by radical Muslim groups.
Arab people don’t hate the United States because of America’s freedoms (as many conservative American leaders have unfortunately repeated). Many Arabs hate America because of a freedom stifling U.S. foreign policy. Congressman Ron Paul alluded to just as much in the now-famous exchange between Paul and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani in the 2008 GOP presidential primary debates. Giuliani unfortunately shouted down the congressman before Dr. Paul was allowed to fully explain his point.
With protests today gripping many countries in the Middle East, the U.S. should support freedom in the region. That’s what America stands for. America’s solidarity with those yearning to be free should not extend solely to those countries where regime change is a business opportunity.