Congrats to Egypt

I’ve been watching and following the revolution in Egypt with rapt attention for the past couple weeks. I followed the battle of Tahrir Square with dread in my stomach and watched yesterday in awe as the people of Egypt celebrated their overthrow of Mubarak.

It’s been amazing.

Not only was it amazing to see a peaceful pro-democracy revolution in the biggest nation in the Arab world, but it also was amazing to feel so close to it. I felt close to the action by reading Andy Carvin’s curated Twitter feed of the revolution, reading information about the situation on the ground immediately, hours before CNN and the rest caught up. And I was even able to have short twitter conversations with people on the ground during the battle to ask some (probably naive) questions. While some people are giving undue credit to Twitter and Facebook for the success of the revolution (all the credit goes to the people of Egypt), the new tools of social media let the world into what happened.

Now, of course, is the hard part for Egypt. The military has taken over. People on the ground consider this a good thing because they trust the military to heed their words and deeds and guide the nation to prompt, free, and fair elections that will result in a democratic civil society. In contrast, some on the American right fear that what happened yesterday was simply a military coup. For now, I’m throwing my lot and hope in with the Egyptian people, not with the naysayers like Drudge.

Overall, it’s very interesting so see how the American right is reacting to this:

  • In 2003, right-wing pundits said that democracy was such a universal good that we shouldn’t consider any risks involved in bringing it to Iraq by force.
  • In 2011, right-wing pundits say that an organic movement towards democracy in Egypt should be feared because the risks are the only thing to consider important.

I definitely recognize that there are risks to American interests in what’s happening, that a movement towards freedom and democracy can be subverted and distorted. However, having the people of Egypt on their own express yearning for values that we share is a wonderful thing, and I think it’s worth the risk. And it’s miles better than the bloody and expensive force we used to try to impose those same values.

So, congratulations, Egypt. You followed the wave started in Tunisia, and I’m excited to see what happens next, even though we don’t know what the aftermath will be.

I have hope.


About Lance Finney

Father of two boys, Java developer, Ethical Humanist, and world traveler (when I can sneak it in). Contributor to Grounded Parents.
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One Response to Congrats to Egypt

  1. Lance Finney says:

    I had an offline conversation about this post with a friend. Here are some more thoughts about the last part:

    Yes, the bulleted points are overly simplistic.

    For 2011, I was referring to the Maddow link (which ran through a half-dozen or more clips). Yes, that’s a cherry-picked summary that ignores the creditable comments from Bill Kristol and others.
    For 2003, I was partially referring to pundits, and I was also referring to Bush’s rhetoric (that a democratic Iraq would be a positive example for the rest of the Middle East), but I was also thinking of conversations with a friend. I remember one conversation in which he implied that my discomfort with the costs necessary to get rid of Saddam implied that I supported him.

    Really, I should have been more clear. It should have been something like this:

    • In 2003, Bush’s justification for war was that the people of the Middle East yearned to be democratic and free. So, we should invade Iraq to create a democracy in one of the centers of the Middle East because that will cause a domino-effect of democracy spreading throughout the region. That will be a wonderful thing, and it’s so wonderful that the risks needn’t be considered.
    • In 2011, the rhetoric from Fox New is that the people of the Middle East might want to be free of their autocrats, but if they have democracy, they’ll bring in theocracy. The potential rise of popular democracy in one of the centers of the Middle East will cause a domino-effect of Islamic theocracy throughout the region. This will be a terrible thing, and the fact that this would be an example of democracy in action doesn’t matter.

    It seems the argument is that a movement towards popular democracy in 2003 would have been a great thing, but a movement towards popular democracy in 2011 will be a terrible thing. It’s the same democracy in the same countries, so what changed? For me, that’s the opposite reaction than makes sense – shouldn’t a transition that was good at the cost of trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives be even better if it comes essentially for free?

    It would be great to have an assurance that democracy turns out how we want it. But that’s the thing about other people’s democracy – it’s not our call.

    Anyway, it seems that this debate turns on the question of what’s more important to us: our values or our interest. We value democracy, but what if a valid democratic process brings a result that’s not in our interest?

    Do we care more about American interests or American values?

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