“I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.

“That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

“There is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments – provided they govern with respect for all their people.

“This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.”

Kind of surprised we haven’t had a national dialogue revisiting this speech.  This speech was an attempt to do a major reset with the next generation of the world’s Muslims and the United States as how to view western democracy and Islam as not inherently competing values.

The revolution in the streets of Egypt are filled with the same kind of people, who just two years earlier, sat and applauded politely to the President of the United States talk about how western democracy is not a threat to the Islamic faith.

Today the White House said:

“The president reiterated his focus on opposing violence and calling for restraint; supporting universal rights, including the right to peaceful assembly, association, and speech; and supporting an orderly transition to a government that is responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people.”

While the people of this country, born itself out of frustration with a seemingly uncaring monarchial rule that would seem autocratic today, are sympathetic to the plight of the Egyptian people, democracy movements in the region have an annoying tendencies to bite American foreign policy in the arse.

Pro-democracy movements in Palestine lead to a government in which Hamas became the majority party. Pro-Iranian forces became the dominant political power in Iraq.  One of the things causing so much paralysis internationally concerning Egypt is that nobody seems to have the slightest idea who would emerge to lead the country… not even the Egyptians protesting in the streets themselves.

Given the decades of U.S. support for Mubarak, if he is forced from power, it is understandable that the United States may not likely continue to have Egypt as an ally in the region for quite some time.  One encouraging sign is this poll in the Washington Post:

And last year — the first survey conducted after Mr. Obama’s well-received June 2009 speech in Cairo — positive opinions became the plurality, at 45 percent, against 29 percent negative views, figures comparable to those for survey participants in the United Kingdom and France. Although opinion about the United States has also improved in most other countries since Mr. Obama’s election, according to the survey, in

perhaps no case has the change been quite so dramatic.

If I were Mubarak, I’d be deeply concerned that the President’s rhetoric concerning him of late is no different than what he said about the now ex-leader of Tunisia. 

And all those conservatives who mocked Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech as a meaningless “apology” tour?  Apology accepted.

 

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