Friday, January 28, 2011

"Democratic" Uprisings - The Great Unknown

President Hosni Mubarak - Egypt

Two weeks ago we learned of the "Jasmine Revolution" in Tunisia.  This week we have been viewing an apparent "democratic" uprising in Egypt.  There are also rumblings of "revolution" in Yemen as well.  Though most people are happy about these changes and possible changes in governments, I don't think they understand that great ramifications and even dangers.

Yes, dictatorships and even virtual dictatorships (as is the case in Egypt) are anathema to our ideals of free peoples and democracy.  But we also have to understand that sometimes those dictatorships are the next best thing to a government elected freely by the people due to their relative stability.  In the case of Tunisia, former Prime Minister Zine El Abidine Ben Ali ruled after taking power in a bloodless coup from 1987 until January 14th, 2011.  President Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak has ruled Egypt since the assassination of Muhammad Anwar El Sadat in 1981.

As with most dictatorships (it can be argued that President Mubarak has won elections since his taking of power), freedoms that we as Americans take for granted are curtailed if not non existent.  They are often times brutal when any dissent comes to bear.  But, as in the case of Egypt, dictators also tend to bring long term stability.  Yes, that stability has a cost, but at least you know where they stand.  Without a stable Egypt our oil prices would skyrocket since oil tankers use the Suez Canal to shorten their travel distance.  Let's also not forget that President Mubarak has also kept the extreme religious elements in his nation under strict control.

The question we should be asking is this: Who will take President Mubarak's place if he is forced from power?  Will it be a military general who will impose a dictatorship even harsher than President Mubarak's?  Will it be some starry eyed academic who's government fails in a few short years?  Or will it be one of the religious extremists now under the thumb of President Mubarak's government?  Maybe it will be someone who hates the peace deal with Israel?

Yes, the concept of democracy is a wonderful thing, but its not for every nation.  We in the West, especially those of us here in the U.S., need to realize that sometimes the historical culture of a nation takes a strongman and even possibly a dynasty.  What works for us (and some days I wonder if it really does) will not work for everyone.  In the case of "democratic" uprisings we need to be very careful of the great unknown.

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