I've read about a thousand comments here arguing that the U.S. must not side with the protestors. The Obama administration is right to "stay out of it," I keep hearing, as if the United States weren't by definition already entangled with a dictatorship it's been propping up for decades. If Obama can call on Mubarak to leave by the fall, he can call on him to leave by next week. The truth is that by not siding squarely with the protestors, the United States is strengthening the regime, and the protestors know this.
Nicholas Kristof, who used to live in Cairo, went back to speak to the protestors. Please RTWT.
These pro-democracy protesters say overwhelmingly that America is on the side of President Mubarak and not with them. They feel that way partly because American policy statements seem so nervous, so carefully calculated — and partly because these protesters were attacked with tear gas shells marked “made in U.S.A.”...
Everywhere I go, Egyptians insist to me that Americans shouldn’t perceive their movement as a threat. And I find it sad that Egyptians are lecturing Americans on the virtues of democracy.
“We need your support,” pleaded Dr. Mahmood Hussein, a physiology professor. “We need freedom.”
Our equivocation isn’t working. It’s increasingly clear that stability will come to Egypt only after Mr. Mubarak steps down. It’s in our interest, as well as Egypt’s, that he resign and leave the country. And we also owe it to the brave men and women of Tahrir Square — and to our own history and values — to make one thing very clear: We stand with the peaceful throngs pleading for democracy, not with those who menace them.
I keep hearing in these parts that it would be dangerous for the United States to side with the protestors. (When I'm not hearing that the American stance is irrelevant.) No one, though, can articulate what these dangers are. What horrible things might happen? People around the world by might die from shock at seeing the actions of the United States comport with its pro-liberty, pro-human rights rhetoric? Or Washington's decades-old foreign policy project of creating America-haters might take a hit?
Another argument I often hear, including from the White House, is that the U.S. must not pick a leader for the Egyptians. (As Iranians, Afghans, and millions of other people around the globe chuckle sadly.) But by strengthening Mubarak's hand, the U.S. is helping to prevent Egyptians from picking their leader. The people of Egypt have spoken: they want Mubarak gone, and they want fair elections.
I support the idea that the United States should not interfere in the other countries' affairs. If the U.S. really wants to remain neutral on Egypt, it must cut off military aid to Egypt and Israel, renounce its interest in the Suez Canal, cease trying to control the world's oil supply, withdraw all troops from the Middle East, generally roll back its military and economic empire, and apologize to the Egyptian people. Until that pie-in-the sky point, the US remains deeply involved in Egypt and deeply complicit in Mubarak's crimes.
What we're witnessing in the streets of Egypt is a repudiation of American foreign policy, which for years has focused on narrow self-interest, usually at the expense of human rights (as if it weren't in the self-interest of the United States to support human rights). It's not surprising that the United States isn't seizing this opportunity to change course and support human rights, but it's depressing nonetheless, not least because a change of course could help change history.