Media commentary on Egypt is echoing past arguments about Somoza's Nicaragua, Batista's Cuba, and the Shah's Iran (among others). All of them confuse U.S. hegemony with omnipotence, and fail to comprehend the consequences of their policy prescriptions. I thought of this as I happened to see Cal Thomas' opinion piece as I read today's Charlotte Observer.
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
The argument, made most prominently in the past by Jeane Kirkpatrick (which is why I have students in my U.S.-Latin American Relations class read her), goes along the following lines:
First, procedural democracy (or Dahl's basic idea of polyarchy) is not possible in these countries.
Second, the United States has the power to keep these authoritarian governments in power.
Third, it is necessary to keep those pro-U.S. authoritarian governments in power, because if they fall, an anti-U.S. totalitarian dictatorship will take its place.
Fourth, as a result the United States should support the authoritarian government's efforts to repress dissent as much as possible.
Fifth, if the U.S. does so, then the status quo will be maintained and the protests will disappear.
This is a vision where the U.S. controls all events, and mass protests are simple manipulations that do not reflect true popular opinion. As such, they can be crushed without consequence, and neither U.S. national security nor the positive image of the U.S. will suffer.
It is, in short, a mirage.