Egypt and the Shortsightedness of the West

by DR. SAMI ALRABAA February 17, 2011
I have often written about how the West in general, and in particular the Obama administration and most of the German politicians, are hypocritical and opportunist, for example “TheWest is Naïve, Greedy, and Cowardly When it Comes to Appeasing Islamists.”
Lots of Arabs believe that if the West did not support the Arab regimes, most of which are totalitarian, and named them by their real name: despotic regimes, and if the West supported the opposition, these regimes would have disappeared long, long ago.
If the Western powers did not antagonize the communist rule in Eastern Europe, the Revolution in 1989 in East Berlin and later in Prague, Bucharest, and other capitals of eastern and central Europe would not have been possible, the Moscow-backed communist regimes would not have crumbled, one after another, and collapsed domino –like. Fear suddenly gave way to courage in these countries. 
The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt proved unequivocally that the West is egoistic, opportunistic, and hypocritical. It bet on the wrong horse.
Before these revolutions, the West bragged and propagated that the West needed Mubarak and Ben Ali as guarantors of strategic stability and repellents of Islamists.
During and after the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, and all of sudden, Washington and Berlin praised the protestors and condemned the regimes they have supported for decades.
The question now is, how credible are the custodians of democracy and human rights in the West in the eyes of people who aspire to have these rights?
Obama, Merkel, Sarkozy, and all of the rest of Western leaders have dropped their allies and now they are telling us, they were autocratic and despotic, and hence they support the legitimate demands of the protesters for genuine democracy.
The only “honest” Western leader, who has not changed his mind with regard to Mubarak and Ben Ali, is Berlusconi, the prime minister of Italy. He never dropped his support for these two Arab dictators.
However, Berlusconi and Sarkozy, and Tony Blair still believe that the Libyan dictator, Mu’ammar Al Gaddafi is making big progress. This is totally laughable!
Just in the recent past, Western leaders were receiving Mubarak and Ben Ali, and other Arab dictators with all conceivable “honorable ceremonies, and never asked the latter to introduce genuine democracy and respect human rights. Western powers, at least as far as the Middle East is concerned, have always and solely preferred to talk about strategic stability to guarantee peace, which for people in the Middle East was equal to the peace of cemetery. 
Yet, Western leaders still ad nauseam sing the same song: they criticize “unfriendly” states like China, Burma, Cuba, and Iran for their abysmal human rights records, and deliberately forget to mention “friendly” regimes like Saudi Arabia, which has the worst human rights record in living memory. Check out my book “Veiled Atrocities”.
The West has awarded “peace prizes” to Chinese dissidents, but never awarded any to an Arab dissident. Weird, isn’t it?
All through its history in the Middle East, the West has been short-sighted and has been playing with fire.
Western powers have turned a blind eye to lack of democracy and human rights in the Arab world in return for economic benefits in Arab countries, including oil and trade. Therefore, the West maintained amicable relations to Arab dictators regardless how autocratic they are. The West has followed primarily its national interests. 
Now after the irreversible revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and maybe sooner or later in Jordan, Yemen, and Algeria one should imagine the following case scenario:
How would the West and in particular Israel, which has vehemently opposed the removal of Mubarak’s regime, react to possible fundamentalist Islamist governments, formed after fair and transparent elections in Egypt and Tunisia? The same happened when Hamas, the radical Islamist movement won the elections in Gaza in 2006.
How would the West and Israel react, if also in Jordan the Islamists took over?
The answer is very simple. Israel would be pushed back to square one. In fact, Israel might disappear from the world map, as the Iranian President, Ahamadinejad has repeatedly threatened. Israel would be de facto surrounded by democratically elected radical governments in Egypt, Jordan, Gaza in the south, and Hizbollah in Lebanon, in the north. And all of these governments will be massively supported and financed by Iran and Syria.
Fundamentalist Islamists - the Jihadists - are far better motivated than all the Arab armies which Israel has defeated over and over again. Israel knows what I’m talking about. It was Hizbollah which ousted Israel from southern Lebanon and not the Lebanese army. The same is happening in Afghanistan. After years of insurgency, Western military leaders have time and again stated that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won militarily, although the NATO troops are better equipped.
Who is to blame for all this thinkable development? The answer is very simple: it is Western powers to blame led by Washington, Berlin, and London.
America and Europe should have put unabated pressure on their stooges in the Middle East, on Mubarak in Egypt, Ben Ali in Tunisia, Abdullah of Jordan, and the other Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, before it is too late.
Had the West put pressure on Arab “friendly” regimes, which heavily depend upon the West, and urged them to introduce democracy and to respect human rights, change in the Middle East would have run peacefully.
Critics of Arab regimes believe, though, that Arab regimes are corrupt to the bones and cannot be reformed. Revolution is the only solution, and the only way out of misery and oppression.
The West should not have bought the Arab dictators’ claim, namely, if they did not hold an iron grip on power, fundamentalist Islamists would take over.
This might be the case to some extent and for sometime. But, by the way, the same is happening in Israel, a western-like democracy. Recently, several Israeli governments, including the current one have entirely depended upon Jewish fundamentalists, on the Orthodox Jews; they are an essential part of Netanyahu’s government. Without them, his government would collapse.
What applies to Israel should and could apply to the Arab world. People’s decisions in genuine democracies must be respected and accepted, whether we like it or not. Such are the rules of democracy. Besides, the majority of Arabs are not simple-minded and cannot be fooled. The majority are poor, but they are educated and rational. They elect the solution that suits them.
I and many other Arabs hope that the West has recently learned an essential lesson in the Middle East. It is now an opportunity to drop despotic regimes in Saudi Arabia and in the other Arab countries before it is too late. The political equation “economic benefits in return for amicable relations, despite oppression,” is over.
If the West carries on siding with the oppressors for strategic and economic reasons, it would in the future pay a high price, it would tremendously regret this short-sighted policy. Wake up, Obama, Merkel, Sarkozy, and the others! The game of oppression and hypocrisy is over. Contributing Editor Dr. Sami Alrabaa, an ex-Muslim, is a professor of Sociology and an Arab-Muslim specialist. He has taught at Kuwait University, King Saud University, and Michigan State University. He also writes for theJerusalem Post.

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