Is the Arab world about to show us what democracy looks like?

Basheer Nafi, a historian, to Al Jazeera.

My feeling is that we are witnessing a second wave of the Arab liberation movement … In the first wave, the Arabs liberated themselves from colonial powers and foreign domination. I think now, the very heart of the Arab world, the backbone of the Arab world, is leading the move towards freedom and democracy and human rights.

Imagine the impact on the planet if tyrants began falling throughout the Middle East as a result of the truly heroic uprisings of their peoples. Could happen. Maybe it already is.

The US has made itself irrelevant in the Middle East and doesn’t believe in democracy, says Robert Grenier, a retired, 27-year veteran of the CIA’s Clandestine Service and Director of the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center from 2004 to 2006. Yes, you read that right.

Events in the Middle East have slipped away from us. Having long since opted in favour of political stability over the risks and uncertainties of democracy, having told ourselves that the people of the region are not ready to shoulder the burdens of freedom, having stressed that the necessary underpinnings of self-government go well beyond mere elections, suddenly the US has nothing it can credibly say as people take to the streets to try to seize control of their collective destiny.

The failure of the US to uphold its stated commitment to democratic values therefore goes beyond a simple surface hypocrisy, beyond the exigencies of great-power interests, to suggest a fundamental lack of belief in democracy as a means of promoting enlightened, long-term US interests in peace and stability.

This article should be in the New York Times or Washington Post. Instead it’s in al-Jazeera. Perhaps that’s fitting. American media has been fumbling and lethargic on Egypt compared to al-Jazeera, who are doing a world-class job, often at great risk to their reporters. Marc Cooper summed up the inept cluelessness of US news media on Facebook recently saying:

8PM Pacific. 6 AM Cairo. CNN ends live coverage and goes to junk crime show. MSNBC playing Catch A Predator. Revolution in a country of 80 million people isn’t important enough to keep live network coverage. Sure gonna miss the MSM when it goes.

As for Washington, it continues to fumble, backtrack, change direction, and clearly has no real idea what is going on in Egypt nor do any of the protesters much care what America thinks. We backed a thuggish torturer for thirty years while mouthing empty platitudes about democracy. Why should they care what we think? Gernier is quite correct, the US has made itself irrelevant (if not despised.)


  1. I hope that democracy is where they’re going, but between Mohamed El Baradei and The Brotherhood, I fear there’s an equal chance of an Islam-based state, more like Iran than a true democracy. Only time will tell on that one though.

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