Egypt Ethics: Integrity Deficit on the Right

It has been fascinating and troubling listening to conservative radio talk-show host Mark Levin lambast fellow conservatives who have been siding with the revolutionaries trying to end the 30 year rule of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Levin argues that such support is foolish and ignorant, because there is no way for the United States to be sure that the resulting new government, even if it is more democratic than the current one (hardly a difficult bar to clear), wouldn’t be worse for the interests of the United States.

Citing history’s depressing list of countries that removed of  dictators, strong men and despots only to get more of the same or worse—Cuba, Iran, Russia, too many African and South American countries to count—Levin has pointed to the prominent Muslim Brotherhood as a force likely to turn any new democracy into an anti-American democracy, or worse. Glenn Beck, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Chris Plante, Sarah Palin and other conservatives on TV and radio echo Levin’s fears, Beck, naturally, doing so more hysterically than the rest.

Levin, as you may know, has written a best-selling book called “Liberty and Tyranny,” in which he uses historical and legal analysis to argue that the U.S. government is slowly strangling American freedom. Levin, a skilled lawyer and a passionate Tea Party advocate, believes that the first principles of American democracy are rooted in individual human rights to freedom, choice, and self-determination.

But apparently Egyptians don’t deserve any of this, because they might do something that America doesn’t like.

Ever since the United States allied itself with Josef Stalin to defeat the Third Reich, the nation has periodically established ties with despots in the interest of world stability or when national interests were at stake. Such arrangements have frequently backfired over time, as oppressed nationalities came to look upon the U.S. as an accessory to their domination. Unsavory allies are unavoidable in the often amoral jungle of international diplomacy, but the United States supports tyrants against a popular uprisings at peril of its integrity and its core values. The United States is not just any country, formed only for the benefit of its own citizens, but a nation with a mission: to support the inalienable rights of not just U.S. citizens but mankind, as defined by the Declaration of Independence.

Not just Americans, but all inhabitants of the planet, have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The fact that a nascent democracy or revolt against tyranny may not continue the friendly, beneficial or profitable policies of the autocracy it removes is unfortunate and may even be dangerous, but the United States’ ultimate interest, its reason for existing, is to stand for the rights of all people to determine their own fates. The right course for the United States in the Egyptian upheaval was determined long ago, in 1776. Conservatives, who claim to revere the founding documents and the principles they champion, show the shallowness of their loyalty to those principles when they argue that only Americans and those who agree with us have the right to be free.

In any battle between the forces of entrenched authoritarian power and the people who no longer are willing to be dominated by it, the United States is morally, ethically, and historically bound to favor the cause of freedom.

7 thoughts on “Egypt Ethics: Integrity Deficit on the Right

  1. Pingback: Americans should wholeheartedly support the Egyptian anti-Mubarak demonstrators « Ethics Bob

  2. I’m sorry, but I thought our integrity ship sailed with W. They had set up free and fair elections with the Palestinians. The wrong party took the elections and instead of embracing the elected group and holding them accountable for their relations with Israel, we put in sanctions, froze their assets, and supported a secondary government.

    • The integrity ship sails and often takes on water, but it doesn’t have to sink. A freely elected terrorist-based government is a tough one; I agree with you, but I sympathize with the dilemma. It doesn’t mean we can’t do better the next time.

  3. The reasoning and fears that a post Mubarak Egypt could be much less friendly to the US and still not be any more democratic are based on solid history, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make Egypt better for the Egyptians. By supporting the revolutionaries, we could have some influence on how they structure their new government. By using our influence over Mubarak and the Egyptian military, we can make it likely that a more democratic government will emerge in Egypt. I have written to my congressman to encourage these actions, I wish everyone would.

    What right do we have try to influence them? We have a lot of experience in this (although mostly of the trial-and-error sort). We have tried setting up democratic governments in many countries. Most, but not all, failed. We may not know what will work, we do know what won’t. Not all democratic governments are equal and some forms are better for other countries than others. If Egypt adopts an election system where the person with the most votes wins, then the Muslim Brotherhood may well take over the government of Egypt and result in a very undemocratic government that will not be very high on the human rights scale. If a majority is required, then this is much less likely. This is the knowledge and experience we should offer them.

  4. And here I thought that one of the lessons learned from Iraq is that we should NOT engage in nation-building . . . .


    • I don’t think we’ll know the lessons of Iraq for a long, long, LONG time. the only one I’m ready to settle on now is: Don’t fight a war if you’re not willing to ask taxpayers to pay for it and the public to sacrifice for it.

      • Or if you’re not willing to prosecute the war to actual victory.

        A weighty and moral and terrifying word…victory.

        We didn’t just bomb Germany and Japan and rout their military forces and then claim a cessation of hostilities, we went beyond that.

        We lay prostrate the very core constituencies of the internal movements that led to their becoming enemies of our nation and values, we bent them to our will and we shamed them before the globe. There was resentment, but then there was also repentance and redemption after the prostration and shaming was followed by unbiased and undeserved magnanimity. Germany and Japan were all the better for it.

        We did not do this to the Sunni Triangle…prostration or shaming. An oversight perhaps. An appeal to ‘political correctness’ more likely.

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