Letter to the Editor: Response to Feb, 7 editorial

I have no doubt that the author of the 02/07/2011 editorial about the Egyptian uprising had decent, even noble, intentions. However, the editorial merely evinces how powerful the culture of imperialism in America is. The author’s main contention is that Egypt will require U.S. intervention or involvement to represent the “will of the people.” Like many U.S. analyses of foreign policy, this one is radically ahistorical. History may not be important to those of us who live in comfort and relative affluence, but it is to those who have been brutally oppressed for many years.

First, U.S. military aid to Egypt during Mubarak’s regime has hovered at around 1.3 billion dollars annually (“Egypt’s Military-Industrial Complex,” The Guardian, 02/04/2011). As noted by Ahmad Al-Sayed El-Naggar, the purpose of this military aid is not to augment Egypt’s ability to protect itself from external threats (obviously not in perceived U.S. interests), but rather to strengthen the regime’s domestic security and to facilitate its ability to control popular movements. This has been a long standing policy, defended many times by many presidents, usually with veiled threats about radical Islam and earnest attestations of the importance of “stability” in the region. We may conveniently forget these facts, but Egyptians are not so insouciant about the sources of their oppression.

Second, the U.S., as of now, seems intent on supporting Omar Suleiman in a “transitional” phase that will eventually lead to “free elections”—although the words “free elections” should be interpreted in concordance with their standard political meaning: elections that end in results we can accept (“Obama Backs Suleiman-Led Transition,” New York Times, 02/05/2011). According to Pepe Escobar (” ‘Sheik al-Torture’: Washington’s New Man in Cairo,” Asia Times, 02/08/2011), protesters routinely refer to Suleiman as “Sheik al-Torture” and are quite familiar with his long record of abuses. Essentially, Omar Suleiman is Hosni Barak without the damning connotations (Mubarak II as he is commonly called); and this support indicates that U.S. will implement a standard script: Defend stability. When that becomes untenable because of popular uprisings, make righteous pronouncements about liberty and democracy in public; in private, move quickly to find another leader who can carry out your desires without subjecting you to justified obloquies.

Again, I believe the author had decent intentions and I have no doubt that the author earnestly believes that U.S. involvement is needed to save the Egyptian uprising from the clutches of another brutal autocrat. However, in light of history, this is not a plausible scenario. Furthermore, the entire idea the U.S. has a right to become involved lies on a dubious moral principle. Would we (the citizens of the U.S.) accept the right of Iran to become involved in our elections? One might retort that the U.S. has been a beacon of hope and democracy and that therefore our intervention is more justified; however, the historical record belies such a claim. Another retort might be, “the U.S. is different now; the U.S. is on the side of human rights.” Suppose that assertion was made by one of the U.S.‘s official enemies, say Iran. Would we even bother to laugh?

I do not know what will happen in Egypt, but I do know one thing: it should be up to the Egyptians to decide.

Bo Winegard, GVSU Senior, Psychology.