It occurs to me, as I'm sure it must have to many people, that if the Western democracies would walk the walk instead of just talking the talk and really supported efforts at democracy in North Africa and the Middle East instead of bankrolling dictators because they provide "stability" we would have a lot less to fear from a democratic North Africa and Middle East.
Given that virtually every gun, club, tear gas bomb and armored car being deployed against the huddled masses yearning to breath free in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere in the region comes from the "arsenal of democracy" and given that we have been helping thugs like Mubarak maintain his stranglehold on power, is it any wonder that when the chickens come home to roost, our governments are terrified of the results? What cause to love the West have we given the people of Egypt or Tunisia or Jordan or Syria? Why shouldn't they hate us?
When Castro was still hiding in the hills of Cuba and people were still robbing banks to fund the revolution, Castro approached the United States for help. The U.S. decided to keep propping up the dictator there for the good of the fruit, sugar, rum and organized crime lobbies and so Castro turned to the Russians for help. We know how that one turned out.
The Sandinistas in Nicaragua reached out to the Ford and Carter Administrations for help getting rid of the Somoza dictatorship. Both refused, citing the Roosevelt/Truman doctrine of "He may be a bastard, but he's our bastard." Central America spends 30 years plagued by right wing death squads trained at the School of the Americas and proxy wars between "leftists" and military-backed plutocrats.
We backed the Shah's bloody kleptocracy, until Iranians finally got fed up and took to the streets and invited the Ayatollah back just to provide some leadership to the angry mob. Then, to fight the Ayatollah, the west decided to cultivate a rival power - a military strongman just next door, who did just what we wanted as long as we kept giving him arms and didn't ask too many questions about what he was doing to his own people. Of course, once Saddam Hussien slipped the leash, things got ugly for him fast.
Now, the realpolitik braintrust in Foggy Bottom and by extention, Whitehall and Ottawa, is worried that if Mubarak falls, the wrong people might end up running Eygpt and that might be bad for Israel and U.S. interests in the region. Maybe they should have thought of that 20 or 30 years ago.
Mubarak and the other despots of the Middle East and North Africa may be "our bastards" instead of "their bastards," but the bottom line is that they are bastards and we are helping them stay in power and teaching their oppressed people to hate us. The longer we prop up dictators to keep the Islamic world in line, the bigger the potential shitrain we are going to face when those dictators inevitably fall to popular uprisings we've helped them try to suppress.
Crossposted from the Woodshed