Monday, January 31, 2011

Following Egypt II

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of visiting my former Spanish professor at his home just outside of the gates of my undergrad.  Without question, he was my favorite professor during my four years.  He pushed me to be the best I could be both in his classes and in school altogether.  He still thinks that I should have considered pursuing a Ph.D in Spanish or Latin American literature, and he has been trying to convince me to return to the GOP since I was a college sophomore (no haps Doc).

Our conversation drifted to what was happening in Egypt.  And we were both saying that we just didn't know enough about the roots of the unrest to gauge what will happen when the dust settles and the smoke clears.  He did, however, discuss what he saw that reminded him of the Cuban Revolution (he is a Cuban exile), in terms of the youth factor within the unrest.  But I reminded him that it appears that many within the Egyptian middle classes seemed to be in this as well, and he agreed that that was a real difference.  Again, we agreed that we just couldn't put our fingers on what's happening.

We moved then to a discussion of democracy, and our attempts to sell it the world over.  To my complete surprise, my very conservative professor and I agreed almost completely that democracy as we experience it is not necessarily the best system of government for everyone on the planet.  I pushed the point further by saying that I felt that our country has lied to people with regard to the calls for democracy, in that if the democratic outcomes differ from what our government wants, then we punish those for exercising democracy.  Again, to my surprise, my professor agreed.  I stated that we need to be honest about what we, as a country, want when we call for democracy.  Why didn't we tell the Palestinians, for example, that if they voted for the wrong party, then we wouldn't support them.  Instead, I felt like we sold them a bill of goods.  It would be akin to a country telling us that we need to exercise our democratic duties, but they really want us to vote for Republicans, for example.  But when we vote for Democrats, that country would begin to threaten us with sanctions and such.

I've written all of this to say that I think that the Obama administration is doing exactly what it needs to do with regard to Egypt, namely very little, in terms of pushing that government one way or another.  And that my very conservative favorite former professor and I agree on this issue.  Frankly, I also agree with James Zogby, in that we, as Americans, particularly our media, don't know enough about all of the players in Egypt to do anything more than watch and wait. 

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