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A Lesson Learned in Foreign Policy

February 14, 2011

If someone came to you and said they could accomplish in 3 weeks what you had failed to accomplish in over 7 years, how would that make you feel?   That’s the feeling that I get these days when I compare what has happened in Iraq to the revolution that has occurred in Egypt.  For the past half century Egypt has experienced repressive rule by multiple dictators, Hosni Mubarak being the longest serving “President” at just under 30 years in power.  However, even that longstanding power could not stop the people of Egypt once they had decided that they truly wanted democracy. Before the rumblings of revolution began, no one in the US had any idea that a regime change in Egypt was coming so quickly.  However, the philosophers we have studied so far could have predicted exactly how things would end.  Plato would have agreed the man who set himself on fire out of frustration in Tunisia was showing his desperation to the world in the most meaningful way one can.  MLK would have wholeheartedly supported the nonviolent actions of those in Egypt.  Machiavelli would have agreed that a homegrown revolution will more easily prevail over unwanted outside intervention.

So if it worked in Egypt, why couldn’t a homegrown revolution fueled by the actual desires of the Iraqi people have ousted Saddam Hussein?  I think it could have. However, we the United States decided to go against the advice of political philosophers from Machiavelli to Hobbes.  They all insisted that a violent intervention by an outside force would only end in more struggle.  Maybe this Egyptian example shows that it is time to question the current role America plays in worldwide foreign policy.  If there are people in the world who require our help, we will help.  But until then, we need to let the seeds of democracy take root organically rather than force it artificially.

2 Comments
  1. Matthew Crowley permalink
    February 15, 2011 4:43 PM

    While I agree that the lack of progress in Iraq is frustrating I do not think that comparing it to Egypt is a fair comparison. While I believe that we never should have started the war there I disagree with the idea that Iraq would have had a revolution similar to the one in Egypt currently. What is happening currently in Egypt is incredibly historic and somewhat unprecedented in the Arab world. I would say it would be somewhat optimistic to assume that the Iraqi people would have overthrown Saddam on their own. Even though I disagree with what you said I think it is an interesting theory and hopefully we will see more people across the world leading revolutions to overthrow tyrannical governments.

  2. Anthony Sinishtaj permalink
    February 15, 2011 8:52 PM

    I would argue that America’s involvement in Iraq is Hobbesian, as in, for America’s self-interest, and not in the interests of democracy. We backed up Mubarak for years, and chose to suddenly go against him once we see a dictator who is a fan of ours is incredibly disliked. We have backed up many dictators for American self-interest, such as Batista. America felt the need to have a base in the Middle East that was closer to Iran, which is likely our next target. So, I disagree with America having to relook at its role. Its role is self-interest, just like any other nation on the planet.

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