While enjoying my morning dose of MSNBC chatter the other day I heard Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations say something interesting about the conflict in Egypt. He basically said that we’re all way too quick to declare which “side of history” is the right side and the wrong side. “Being on the right side of history”, Mr. Haass says, is an awfully overused phrase.
Being a card carrying liberal, being on the right side of history has always been one of my rallying cries. Mr. Haass’ remarks made me rethink that for a moment. In Egypt we have a leader who has clearly outstayed his welcome. However for the past 30 years, he has served America’s interests quite well. For that matter, we have no idea what follows should Hosni Mubarak abandon his office. So as I’ve said in a prior post, we are indeed between a rock and a hard place in how we react to this situation.
On a more philosophical note, where exactly do we get off telling any nation how to conduct its affairs and who should lead it? I don’t have an easy answer for this question either. Leaders provide leadership. The United States is a world leader. So is it incumbent upon us to provide advice to any country in time of crisis? Clearly, doing so can cut both ways. It has been noted that in an interview with ABC’s Christiane Amanpour, Mubarak’s body language betrayed a frustration with perceived lack of support from his longtime ally, the USA. By the same token, it appears that the “people” demanding change are not satisfied with what they view as a less than full-throated advocacy from Obama.
Some conservatives and even some liberals are angry that Obama and his White House didn’t get on top of this situation when unrest first stirred in Tunisia. In the words of my blogger friend Gorilla of “The 800lb Gorilla”:
Obama’s failure to cool the situation and work in structured change with the leaders- using carrots and sticks- has allowed the situation to get out of control.
via Sleeping Through 3 A.M. « The 800lb Gorilla.
I have even heard the liberal media call the White House flat-footed when it comes to the Cairo uprising. Again, I have to ask myself what could we really have done and what should we have done? While Egypt’s future has tremendous impact on us, it is by the same token really none of our business.
So here we sit relatively helpless to effect a positive outcome in the Middle East. Hindsight is 20/20 and the only way to know you were on the right side of history is with hindsight. For the time being, all we really can do with any moral authority is ask the Egyptians to stop killing each other.