Are Republicans in danger of making the same mistake that George H. W. Bush made in 1991?
Bush, you will recall, was wary of “instability” in the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China. Thus, he delivered his infamous “Chicken Kiev” speech urging the Ukraine not to secede. Ukrainians, of course, rejected Bush’s counsel and did just that, by declaring their independence three weeks later.
Bush also refused to encourage the Chinese student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square — even though these student demonstrators had built a replica of the Statue of Liberty and were quoting Jefferson, our Declaration of Independence, and the American founding fathers.
Of course, after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Bush’s son, President George W. Bush, instituted a foreign policy very different from his father’s. America now committed itself to worldwide democratization, even if it resulted in periodic bouts of “instability.”
I think the younger Bush was absolutely right to do this. Autocratic regimes are inherently unstable and cannot survive in a world of instantaneous communication and international travel.
Oppressed peoples see what their counterparts in freer countries have; and they realize that their autocratic rulers are cheating them. They realize that they are being denied the liberty and opportunity that others have; and they won’t stand for it — and neither should we.
American foreign policy, after all, has always had a moral dimension by virtue of our founding creed — our belief that “all men are created equal; [and] that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights… among [which] are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
America’s clear interest lies in liberal democracy and in more representative governments worldwide — even at the risk of “instability.” And that’s because governments that are held accountable to their people are, in the long run, much more likely to be peaceful and non-threatening than autocracies and dictatorships.
Yet, on Thursday of last week, Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Michigan) said this:
The Egyptian demonstrations are not the equivalent of Iran’s 2009 Green Revolution. The Egyptian demonstrations are the reprise of Iran’s 1979 radical revolution.
Thus, America must stand with her ally Egypt to preserve an imperfect government capable of reform; and prevent a tyrannical government capable of harm…
This is not a nostalgic ‘anti-colonial uprising’ from within, of all places, the land of Nassar. Right now, freedom’s radicalized enemies are subverting Egypt and our other allies.
McCotter is a fine man whom I like and respect; but he’s dead wrong about Egypt. As I explained yesterday here at the American Spectator, while there is certainly a risk that the Egyptian revolution will be hijacked by Islamists, the revolution itself did not originate with Islamists.
And what’s more, the Muslim Brotherhood has not been driving this uprising; ordinary Egyptians with legitimate and democratic aspirations have. And we should be supporting the Egyptian people, not squelching their hopes and dreams because we fear the Islamists.
In fact, the surest way to radicalize Egypt is to side with the autocrats. The fact is that Egypt has turned a decisive corner. Mubarak is history. There is no going back.
So far from trying to preserve Mubarak’s 30-year-old dictatorship, as McCotter foolishly recommends, the United States instead should be facilitating a transition to a new and more democratic Egyptian government.
McCotter spoke unwisely and prematurely, I’m afraid. His is the voice of George H. W. Bush and Pat Buchanan, not George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. The Egyptian people need to hear the latter not the former, both for their sake and ours.