Since the end of World War II, the foreign policy of the United States differed little from that of the Soviet Union. Despite radically different national principles, we talked about freedom and democracy while they had little interest in civil liberties; both nations sought out and supported any dictator and oppressive regime willing to align with them. We wanted freedom and liberty within this country, but showed passing interest in establishing it in a good portion of the rest of the world. We have an unerring record on picking sides. We have always been wrong.
The United States consistently supported oligarchies, military rulers, family dynasties and showed little to no interest in what the people of a given country were concerned about, nor did we concern ourselves with their freedom to determine their own destiny. We supported immoral, corrupt, evil national leaders and justified it with the old line, "...the enemy of my enemy is my friend." We also liked, "...he may be a son of a bitch but at least he is our son of a bitch." The end result has been disaster after disaster and years of unnecessary hatred and enmity directed at this country by people victimized by our neglect.
The current crisis in Egypt is a classic example of this failed policy. For 30 years, we have sent hundreds of billions of tax dollars to Hosni Mubarek because he has kept Egypt "stable". Stable meant he would pretend to be an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians. Stable meant he would fight extreme forms of Islam while at the same time using the Arab press to demonize and vilify both Israel and the United States and allowing some of the most virulent anti-Semitism to be spread throughout the region. The price of this stability was the steady, crushing, repression of his own people, the reality is America was seen invading Moslem nations to "spread democracy" while spending billions propping up dictator after dictator. We armed these same despots with American weapons, not for defense, but to control their own populations and make a nice buck for the military industrial complex. So, now the United States sits and watches the people of Egypt and Tunisia rise up against their corrupt oppressors faced with a Hobson's choice. Do we support democracy and the overthrow of our "friends" knowing it will wreck our shaky credibility with other Arab regimes? If we side with the people, it is possible any new leadership could be much more anti American, not interested in our need for stability or our security needs.
The list of wrong choices made by Democratic and Republican presidents is long and the results consistent. We knew Chiang Kai-shek was corrupt, represented the rich elite and was hated by the people, we propped him up anyway paving the way for Mao's sweep to power. We backed Bautista in Cuba opening the door to Castro. When the Iranian people democratically elected a leader, the CIA overthrew him paving the way for the Shah and eventually the rise of the Ayatollah. We back Franco in Spain and the military junta in Greece. The Vietnamese fought for independence from the French and won in 1954 only to see the United States step in and support a corrupt and repressive government. Ho Chi Minh was ours for the taking in the early fifties and the disaster that became the Viet Nam war was totally unnecessary. Few national leaders were more corrupt than Ferdinand Marcos, yet he was our guy and at the same time Reagan, Cheney and the rest attacked Nelson Mandela as a terrorist and supported the corrupt and morally bankrupt system of apartheid in South Africa. In the Congo, the CIA assassinated Patrice Lumumba condemning that nation to 50 years of terror, repression and death. In Chile, we arranged for the fall of Salvador Allende replacing him with Augusto Pinochet who murdered tens of thousands of his people to maintain control. Papa Doc and Baby Doc Duvalier ransacked Haiti and enjoyed support in Washington. We backed Somoza in Nicaragua making it easy for the Sandinistas to rise to power. In El Salvador, over 70,000 people died in a civil war we financed, killed by the government we supported, in order to keep in power a political party, the Arena party, who killed and tortured nuns, priests and assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero while he was saying Mass. The reality the rest of the world knows is fighting for freedom and democracy will rarely get you the support of the United States. Fight to protect the elite business and moneyed interests against the average citizen and we will rush to your aid. The people of Egypt know the key roll we played in keeping Mubarak in power and how we have looked the other way for 30 years as he crushed his own people. Now, we are worried what will happen if he goes. Talk about the barn door being closed after the horse has gotten out.
The very existence of Al Qaeda can be directly linked to American support for the repressive and corrupt regimes in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The appeal of extreme fundamentalist Islam is linked to the poverty in these countries, the lack of jobs and economic progress and the knowledge the United States is responsible for keeping people like Mubarak in power. Our policies have led to direct threats against Americans in this country even as we justified supporting dictators because the stability was good for American security. Even when someone does what we want we turn it into something that further erodes our credibility. We called on the Palestinians to have free and fair elections, but when Hamas won, we immediately refused to recognize the results and poured money into Fatah's coffers igniting a civil war in the territories.
I have been listening to regressive talk radio and reading op-eds in the corporate media bemoaning our lack of support for Mubarak. If we had just stuck by the Shah in Iran, there would have been no Islamic revolution and no rise of fundamentalist Islam. They raise the specter of a similar occurrence in Egypt. We should continue this history of disastrous foreign policy and side with Mubarak no matter what he has to do to wipe out his opposition and ride out the storm. The hypocrisy is extraordinary and the result would be to destroy what little credibility America might have left in the region. Hanbaugh and the Weiner and the rest also seem to be more concerned about Israel's security than they are our principles. This cold war policy has resulted in anti-American movements all over the world and yet they still cling to it like Linus to his blanket.
Is it possible things could be worse under a new government than they are now under Mubarak? Yes. The Muslim Brotherhood could seize power and try to impose an Iranian-style Islamic nation on Egypt. Even if they don't, the new government could be more sympathetic to Iran and less willing to do US bidding and Israel could find itself with a much less secure border situation. Goods could flow more easily into Gaza, and Egypt could shift into being an advocate for the Palestinians. Any of these scenarios is possible and the United States will find its influence diminished because we have so little cache left in the region. We supported and support oppression in the name of our national interest despite its effect on the people and their dreams and aspirations and every time we do we come out with the short end of the stick. Stay tuned.