Obama and Freedom in Egypt


It’s been a rough weekend for the president.  He has watched as protesters in Egypt took to the streets, defying curfews and challenging the police and army, throwing rocks and setting stuff on fire.  And the enlightened one is in a tough spot.  Does he choose Hosni Mubarak, or does he choose a freely elected Egyptian government?  Mubarak has been an ally of sorts for the US.  The Egyptian government has been among the most stable in the middle east. 

Obama’s response?  Hey, Egypt.  Turn the internet back on.  Turn the cell towers back on.  All this at a time when his own FCC is trying to silence opponents with the “fairness doctrine” and “net neutrality” rules.  Apparently, information should flow freely everywhere in the world, unless you disagree with the president’s pinheaded ideas.  His response is not exactly what the people in Egypt were hoping for.

But with the annual income in Egypt per capita being one hundred thirty-seventh among countries, and with a young population, it looks like the people of Egypt have had enough of Mubarak.  They want economic and political freedom. 

And our president has to decide which side to choose. 

I remember during the campaign that Obama’s campaign rhetoric maligned George Bush’s “cowboy diplomacy.”  The media praised Obama for being thoughtful and deliberate.  I guess “thoughtful and deliberate” means he can’t choose a side without seeing which way the political winds are blowing. 

Remember Obama gave a speech in Cairo shortly after being elected.  In that speech, he apologized for America acting unilaterally in the middle east and being “arrogant.”  During the speech, he did not mention freedom or liberty.  Now, it looks like he is going to have to think about freedom.

I understand Americans’ apprehension about the Islamic Brotherhood.  I don’t know much about these guys.  If there are free elections in Egypt, we could see a replay of Palestine, where Hamas won elected office.  But here’s the rub.  The people of Egypt want the chance to choose for themselves who will represent them in their government.  Most of the population of Egypt is young; 77% of the population is under thirty.  Most of the terrorists that perpetrate attacks come from an age group between 18 and 34. 

But I think there’s another angle to consider here.  The people in Egypt are tired of living in poverty.  Wherever theocratic regimes are put in place, the population becomes less wealthy.  The people in Egypt clearly do not want this.  They want stuff.  And Mubarak’s regime hasn’t provided them the opportunity to obtain stuff. 

With our recent penchant for nation building, you’d think that when a large number of people show up to protest government oppression, our country would jump on the bandwagon for them.  Iraq didn’t ask us for help.  Afghanistan didn’t ask us for help.  Egypt seems to be crying out for help.  And if the protesters get their way, they’ll remember the way we reacted when all this started.  Obama can give all the speeches in the world, but his hemming and hawing over this says all those people need to know.  The US wouldn’t help us when we wanted freedom. 

There is risk here.  The government of Egypt could end up in the hands of terrorists.  I’m not so sure a theocracy would last long in Egypt.  Seems to me if the government became opressive, the Egyptians would take to the streets again and burn down any mosque they thought housed an imam that supported sharia law and forced them into deeper poverty.  If the government of Egypt is taken over by hard line Muslims, gas prices would skyrocket.   One other reason we need to “drill baby drill.”  If we had our own supply of oil, some whack job seven thousand miles away couldn’t affect our ability to get to work or heat our homes. 

Either way this thing turns, Obama has to choose a side.  Will he choose the side of freedom?  He hasn’t done so in the US.  He rarely mentions freedom in his speeches.  Maybe he thinks that freedom is implied, and therefore he doesn’t need to mention it.  But freedom is not implied.  It’s a gift from God, and governments take it away.  And the people of our own country need to be reminded often that it is not something you can take for granted.

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