I believe that it’s a tough call for the Obama Administration to make about backing North African democracy movements or more accurately, Arab democracy movements. Opposition to authoritarian rule does not necessarily make a movement democratic, e.g., Iran in 1979. While these movements may seem spontaneous on the surface, sub-elements are definitely organized, especially in Egypt. I suspect that these organized elements are preparing to take control of any interim “democratic” process that emerges.
I’ve heard reporters and other observers remark that the protesters are wearing western-style clothing as though clothing makes a movement secular or democratic. The Nazis and the Iranian mullahs were invited to join the fractured governments of 1930’s Germany and 1979 Iran. We have no idea which path Tunisia will take. But like it or not, President Mubarak is defending the future of a secular Egypt and America’s interests in north Africa and the Arab world. Reagan era UN Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick once remarked through her Cold War lens that it was better to support authoritarian regimes over totalitarian regimes. Today, I would add “theocratic” regimes.
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