The effects of freedom: What does the Middle Eastern crisis mean for the rest of the world?

by Michael Hassett

 

Though we may not feel it, we are experiencing exciting times.


Turn on the television, and you witness the birth of freedom upon the faces of middle easterners as the shackles of tyranny and dictatorship fall clanking to the ground. What is even more amazing is that this freedom has been seized from the old regimes by the restless youth within the country. What started

as a public suicide from a desperate Tunisian computer scientist back in December, has turned the whole

Middle East upside down and put this tumultuous region back into headlines around the world.


In the wake of now two toppled governments and a third well on its way, many wonder how far this will

go and who and what it will affect as the protests and unrest spread like wildfire to more Islamic dictatorships.


These worries seem not to have taken major root in many of America’s youth, but as more

people hit the streets abroad and the price of gas steadily increases, many may begin to pay more

attention. With the supposed end of these governments, we are compelled to look at how these governments

were forged and contemplate why they didn’t stand the test of time.


Sociology Professor and humanitarian, Azlan Tajuddin said that these protests are the end result from United States’ policy abroad. According to the author of The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction, Robert J. McMahon states that as the Cold War developed, the Soviet Union and the United States scrambled to influence as many third world nations as possible. From this influence, Tajuddin said that the United States hoped to gain oil and natural resources. To help facilitate this agenda, the United States established western-friendly regimes. One example is Iran.


Tajuddin said, ”This blatant hypocrisy is nothing new to American policy; this hypocrisy can be traced all the way back to the birth of America. From our flawed policy towards the Native Americans, to the atrocities committed to African American slaves, American policy has only protected the economic interests of the

American elite.“


He added, ”These crises are clear outcomes of our flawed foreign policy which is an outgrowth

of the corruption in the United States.“


To some Americans, this denunciation is a bitter pill to swallow and holds true for Jim Werbaneth,

political scientist and professor. He said he believes that these protests were engendered

because of an unresponsive government and not the result of American policy.


Werbaneth stated, ”The Egyptian government refused to acknowledge the needs of the populous,

especially the educated youth.“ Furthermore, with unemployment at an all-time high, Egyptian, Tunisian and Libyan societies were stagnant. With little upward mobility and little economic stimulation, the masses were

exhausted and restless. This, coupled with the governments blatant self-servitude, pushed the

masses over the edge.


So what does this mean for the region?


According to Tajuddin and Werbaneth, these revolts are a good sign. Egypt was one of the strongest dictatorships in the region with a predominant Islamic dominance. According to Tajuddin, ”These protests have come from a secular grassroots movement with secular endeavors, most prominent being the labor strikes in Suez.“


Werbaneth expressed concern for secular Egyptians. He explained, ”I fear that Islam may suck

them in and silence their movement.“ He said he believes that the secular mass is a major piece to the puzzle that will help promote a more representative government down the road; however, he believes that Egypt has a long way to democracy, which he bases off of his experience with the fall of communism in 1989. Like

the Soviet Union, he added, this region will have to go through the many stages before democracy is achieved.


”Every authoritarian Islamic nation is in danger,“ Werbaneth said. ”The way things are looking, a domino effect is definitely possible, if not probable.“


Tajuddin said he is not so sure. Though this is a good sign, he fears that the military will be reluctant

to relinquish power. ”If all goes well, he said, ”we can be hopeful that Egypt will lead the process

of democratization. At this point and time though, one cannot be certain of the outcome.“


With the future uncertain for the Middle East, many have formulated opinions on what America should do, if anything, to help facilitate the democratic policy. Tajuddin and Werbaneth are no exception.


”It is imperative that the United States rethinks its foreign policy. People do not hate Americans

but its policy,“ Tajuddin said. Along with foreign policy reformation, Tajuddin said it is crucial that right-wing Republicans do not retake power. ”If they do take the presidential seat,“ Tajuddin stated,“ they [Republicans] will revert back to Mubarak-like ways. Policies cannot be executed simply for personal gain. Republicans

don’t agree.“


Werbaneth explained a different approach to Egyptian policy. He said he views Egypt as a potential ally and that America should cultivate a relationship with the military to strengthen bonds.


He said, ”Egypt is the largest, most powerful, Arab nation. In essence, it is the cultural nucleus of the Arab world and is the largest Arab recipient of American aide. By retaining engagement with the military, America can give stability to Egypt, which is the prime objective, followed by democratic influence.“