George Graham

The Poisonous Fruit of Misguided Foreign Policy

Call me naive, but I believe the right kind of foreign policy is to do the morally right thing – whatever the perceived consequences might be.

With my 77th birthday less than two months away, my observation of life leads me to the conclusion that doing the right thing pays off in the long run.

That’s why I can’t see America – or any other western nation – continuing to support Mubarkek – or his pal Suleiman.

Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor and Professor of Linguistics (emeritus) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the author of dozens of books on U.S. foreign policy, reminds us today that American foreign policy has ignored democracy and freedom in the past in the interests of perceived short-term interests. And it looks as if America’s leaders are heading in the same direction with Egypt.

Discussing the crisis, Chomsky writes:

One 1989 comparison has some validity: Romania, where Washington maintained its support for Nicolae Ceausescu, the most vicious of the East European dictators, until the allegiance became untenable. Then Washington hailed his overthrow while the past was erased.

That is a standard pattern: Ferdinand Marcos, Jean-Claude Duvalier, Chun Doo Hwan, Suharto and many other useful gangsters. It may be under way in the case of Hosni Mubarak, along with routine efforts to try to ensure that a successor regime will not veer far from the approved path.

The current hope appears to be Mubarak loyalist Gen. Omar Suleiman, just named Egypt’s vice president. Suleiman, the longtime head of the intelligence services, is despised by the rebelling public almost as much as the dictator himself.

A common refrain among pundits is that fear of radical Islam requires (reluctant) opposition to democracy on pragmatic grounds. While not without some merit, the formulation is misleading. The general threat has always been independence. In the Arab world, the United States and its allies have regularly supported radical Islamists, sometimes to prevent the threat of secular nationalism.

A familiar example is Saudi Arabia, the ideological center of radical Islam (and of Islamic terror). Another in a long list is Zia ul-Haq, the most brutal of Pakistan’s dictators and President Reagan’s favorite, who carried out a program of radical Islamization (with Saudi funding).

In the interests of “stability,” America has funded repressive dictatorships, making it possible for their regimes to remain in control. The current U.S. budget includes $1.5 billion for Egypt. And Chomsky notes that:

Washington provided $12 million in military aid to Tunisia. As it happens, Tunisia was one of only five foreign beneficiaries: Israel (routinely); the two Middle East dictatorships Egypt and Jordan; and Colombia, which has long had the worst human-rights record and the most U.S. military aid in the hemisphere.

The result of this policy is bitter hostility toward America throughout the Arab world.

Chomsky warns that:

Arab opinion is so hostile to Washington’s policies that a majority (57 percent) think regional security would be enhanced if Iran had nuclear weapons. Still, “there is nothing wrong, everything is under control” (as Marwan Muasher describes the prevailing fantasy). The dictators support us. Their subjects can be ignored—unless they break their chains, and then policy must be adjusted.

I wonder how things would have turned out if America’s leaders had consistently opted for democracy and freedom, regardless of political alliances.

Don’t you think the Arab world – and everybody else – would have seen this behavior as admirable? Don’t you think America’s moral authority would have been enhanced?

I am sure that America would by now be regarded as an honest broker, held in high regard by the rest of the world. And that would make it a lot easier to negotiate a Middle East peace – the prospects of which have been placed in jeopardy by the revolt of the Arab people against repressive dictatorships supported by the west.

About the author

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com