President Obama said it in his Cairo speech: “tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.” Further, he should have added, this continued through the West’s worldwide support of dictators that robbed the people of their rights, livelihoods and resources.
All too many examples of abuse and corrupt practices have led to the current events across the globe, most notably the daily events we are seeing in Egypt.
Egypt’s people reached a tipping point. What has now become a national revolution is a real time example of the global frustration over The Great Game, which is unfortunately not limited to, as its often noted, Afghanistan.
Although we may not want to acknowledge it, groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and Al Qaeda are a result of colonial and Cold War policies noted in Obama’s speech. All this redrawing boundaries and playing with people’s nationalities and religions has taken its toll.
This uprising, which is reaching beyond Tunisia and Egypt to Jordan, Yemen, Palestine and Lebanon, is not limited to the Arab World. We have been witnessing it just about everywhere, albeit piecemeal.
In Iran, there is the Green Revolution protesting the Ayatollahs. Here in the US, we have seen the Tea Party make inroads in Congress because they are angry at partisan pettiness and special interests that have led to an absence of governance. In Europe, there have been riots in France due to discrimination and unrest in Ireland because the collapse of the financial markets left them broke. The Spanish government fell because the people wanted their military out of Iraq. In Africa, Asia and South America you can find gatherings of people who are demonstrating against tyrants purported to be Prime Ministers or Presidents doing anything but working for them. Worldwide we see social media, blogging, and Twitter used to organize movements against governments that are silencing voices or prohibiting freedoms.
Populations are frustrated. Lines between rich and poor deepen while big business and international banks help themselves to resources and wealth without repercussion. Western leadership all too often supports dictators, helping them stay in power despite corruption and abuses.
Small countries have little power to change their situation, to survive they band together or succumb to Western pressure to fall in line with Western rule. The US itself is content with the illusion that ignoring events like Egypt and keeping President’s like Mubarak will sustain its hegemonic control.
Countless weapons sales, unwarranted torture and arrests and abject poverty have all contributed to current events. As has the western fear of eastern democracy.
Egypt has shown that allowing populations to play their part in change has silenced the extremists. Yet, the US and others did not know how to trust. Instead, they helped Israel lead the coup against Hamas and continue to cut ties with Lebanon due to political participation by Hezbollah. You would think events like Egypt would help them learn. Instead, Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh, and Saudi’s King Abdullah get unlimited support despite their continued human rights abuses. This also holds true for the powers in Columbia, Rwanda, Indonesia, Uganda and the People’s Republic of Congo.
Despite all the efforts to ignore the masses or keep them ignorant and in check, the insurgency has begun. The Tunisian and Lebanese governments are gone and those from Egypt, of course, Jordan, Palestine and Yemen are not far behind. There are even rumors of Syria’s Assad getting ready for a similar movement in Syria. If the US would have only waited, it could have saved trillions because it is fairly sure that Iraq would have followed.
The Great Game of world hegemony must stop. We need a new system. One that goes beyond the fight to control other governments, economies, forces and people. It is time to learn from others like Turkey who are showing new ways of engagement and statecraft based on understanding and sharing, not overtaking and dismissing others interests.
Instead of asking the rest of the world to catch up to the West, it is time for the West to take part in the changes that are being led by the rest of the world. Led by the millions in Egypt who also want the American dream of opportunity and prosperity.
Dictators and royals alike must be our past not our future. Global government must be staffed with those who care. Therefore enabling the world to feed itself, prohibiting the desecration of the environment, educating the masses to participate and standing together against the ethnic cleansing and mass atrocities.
Egypt is an example we should not just watch but respond to. The West must stand up and support the end of Mubarak’s reign. It should take a break from providing arms and financial aid to authoritarian regimes. Finally, the world should declare a movement of solidarity with not only the Egyptians but also all people who deserve better.
As Obama said, “We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning.” Let us tap into that courage and support a new beginning for a democratically free and peaceful Egypt as well as for the rest of the world.
This was originally published on the Huffington Post, February 2, 2011