Egypt: It’s Not About You

Posted on February 2, 2011

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A Quote:

“If the revolution in America results in the fall of the existing governmental order, what are the chances that the people will be governed subsequently by a more just system? And what are the chances that Britain’s interests will be advanced by that result?

Will the tobacco fields no longer safely be able to supply the empire?

Will the Americas tilt further in the evil direction of radical secularist forces? Will our colonies in Canada be further isolated from their neighbors and their connection to the Empire?

If the Caribbean is threatened by an anti-British regime, is it likely that we will find ourselves forced to occupy and protect Florida for world commerce?”

If you clicked on the link before reading the quote then you should have caught on by now. The quote has had a few key terms modified to reflect a British reaction to the American revolution. Initially, it reflected a very similar sentiment about the ongoing Egyptian revolution from the American media. The parallel is quite valid: In each case, the dominant imperial power has legitimate reason to fear for its interests in the region affected by the revolution. As I have stated before, I am totally unfamiliar with the situation in Egypt, and so from my limited perspective I cannot rule out any possibilities for how this might turn out in the future. Yes, the new Egyptian government might turn hardline Islamist. Yes, they might change the terms by which the Suez canal is used. Yes, they might adopt an antagonistic stance towards Israel, and yes, the resulting instability might result in an increase in the price of oil.

I can offer one piece of comforting evidence for concerned Westerners: A possible candidate for president is Mohammed ElBaradei, who is neither a militant islamist nor an aspiring dictator. In fact, the international diplomatic community thinks he’s a sufficiently upstanding guy that they made him director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency for three entire terms. If the Egyptians choose him as their leader, then the country will be in good hands even by heavily biased Western standards.

But that’s beside the point. It is convenient that ElBaradei is available as a Western-friendly option for head of government, but regardless of whether or not he is actually selected, I want to make one thing very clear to anyone who is not Egyptian:

Fuck your interests.

This is not about you. It is not about the price at the pumps, or the security of Gaza, or Barack Obama’s diplomatic competence, or the Western effort to control global Islam. If the Egyptians choose a government that threatens human rights or global security then that can be addressed when it happens. But the suggestion that they are somehow particularly prone to do so and should therefore not be allowed to govern themselves is at best ignorant and at worst racist. Worse than that, the suggestion that Egyptians should remain under a thumb of a dictator so that American/Canadian/British/European interests in the Middle East can be better served is just about the most morally bankrupt statement that I have heard given time in the mainstream media in quite some time.

The Egyptians have a right to self-determination. They get to choose what kind of government they want and who gets to lead it because they know their own society and culture better than anybody else on the planet. For Western armchair pundits to suggest otherwise, whether out of morally bankrupt concern for their own national interests or legitimate concern for the welfare of Egyptians, is incredibly patronizing. Westerners have no more right to tell Egyptians how to run their country than the British had the right to tell the early Americans how to run theirs.

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Posted in: Civil Rights, Rants