On Independence Day our government expressed deep concern about removal of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi — demanding the Egyptian military return control to a duly elected democratic government — implying legitimacy to Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood team.
What a very different reaction to America’s insistence on the removal of Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Where was the concern when our policy was “Mubarak must go” — unleashing the Arab Spring; abandoning our strongest Arab ally, the one preserving the Camp David Accords; leaving Egypt leaderless, with no viable path to replace the Mubarak government with a better one? Were we concerned when we then “led from behind” as revolutionary protests erupted across a region totally unprepared for representative government?
After decades of trying to inspire democratic reform in the Muslim world — with decades of lost American lives, limbs, and treasure — it’s time to reject naiveté and do a reality check.
The lessons learned in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Egypt should tell us to stay out and let such nations weave their own path toward liberty, understanding that the needed impetus, leadership, and new political systems must originate within. Representative government there requires careful planning, preconditions and institutions in place. It requires cultural changes we’ll never fully comprehend. It requires leaders with the courage and skills needed to govern. It can only succeed if the citizens are prepared to sacrifice for future generations.
Vacuums are created whenever dictators are removed. When the only organization in place is the mosque, transformation toward democracy is impossible.
When Mubarak was ousted, the Muslim Brotherhood was the only force ready to fill the vacuum.
When Moammar Khadafi was removed in Libya, we should have anticipated that tribalism, chaos, bloodshed and Islamic terrorism would follow.
When the Arab Spring spread into Syria, it’s not surprising that 100,000 were subsequently slaughtered as the Bashar Assad regime held off Islamist revolutionaries attempting to seize power.
In Turkey, where secular rule replaced the Caliphate in 1924, the dangerous devolution toward Sharia Law should be concerning.
For decades after what happened in Iran, American foreign policy was based on accepting the stability possible with far-from-perfect secular Arab dictators. We understood that they were actually containing Islamism in nations ill-prepared for self-rule.
Largely Muslim nations lack what’s needed for democracy. Any shift toward Islamism can only heighten Israeli-Palestinian tensions and increase the influence of Iran.
Any emergence of political strength from the mullahs, Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaida or the Taliban will bring Sharia Law — reversing any progress made toward religious freedom, open education, and women’s rights.
We learned that in Iran — then again in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.
Before we excite unprepared citizens to revolt, we must understand that extremists are waiting to exploit resulting political weaknesses. We must remember what happened when the United States abandoned the shah in 1978, and that 35 years later Iranian nuclear ambitions and support of terrorism make an already “dangerous neighborhood” a far greater threat to world peace. The Iranian Revolution resulted in a far worse condition than Iran under the shah.
While Saddam was a brutal tyrant, his departure proved that the journey toward individual liberty is incredibly challenging. Now the so-called Arab Spring is devolving into a Winter of Islamism.
In the aftermath, America’s reputation and credibility are suffering. The very Arab citizens we’ve tried to inspire are dancing in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, carrying anti-American signs side by side with those rejecting the shackles of Islamism, condemning the U.S. government as supporters of terrorism.
Perhaps some good will now emerge. Perhaps Egypt will find the president they need. Perhaps Iran’s youth will rediscover the courage to revolt against oppressive Islamic rule; and perhaps America will support them this time.
But freedom in the region will carry a devastating price. The Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaida, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban and thousands of mullahs will not yield power willingly.
Many will suffer as the world’s most politically oppressed nations attempt to launch their equivalent of what America achieved 237 years ago.
On every July Fourth we are reminded that at time in the course of human events it becomes necessary for people to dissolve the tyrannical institutions that bind them, and then restore through self-governance the God-given rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
As we celebrate our precious freedoms as Americans, let’s pray for the leadership needed in the Muslim/Arab world — leaders “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence” and the courage to “mutually pledge their lives, their fortunes, and sacred honor” to the cause of liberty.
Those quotes are from our Declaration of Independence.