Friday, February 11, 2011

Change Comes to Egypt.

Here is an excerpt from President Obama's speech in Cairo on June 4, 2009, the part where he addressed the subject of democracy:

"I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.
That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.
There is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments – provided they govern with respect for all their people."
I would not presume to credit President Obama with the Egyptian people's amazing achievement today of toppling a dictator.  It was the Egyptians themselves, by means of the last couple of weeks of heroic, massive, peaceful protests, who did that. But I would credit the President with being prescient enough to address the issue of democracy in his historic overture to the Muslim world nearly two years ago.  And I would credit a worldwide movement, led by young people, for peaceful, democratic change--a movement that brought Barack Obama to the presidency in America--with playing a part in inspiring similar movements elsewhere. That movement has today borne fruit in Egypt, and must be causing concern among dictators anywhere they remain in power.

Everyone should wish the people of Egypt well in their continuing difficult quest for democracy and freedom.


  1. When they are burning the American flag there and chopping off people's hands for stealing change will have come!

    These textbooks were found in England and I'm sure all those little Egyptians are learning something similar:

    Up to 5,000 pupils attending weekend schools across Britain are being exposed to textbooks claiming that some Jews were transformed into pigs and apes, and that some offences could be punished with stoning. One book for six year-olds warns that those who do not believe in Islam will be condemned to “hellfire” in death.

    Another text for 15 year-olds teaches that thieves who break Sharia law should have their hands cut off for a first offence and their feet amputated for a subsequent crime. Teenagers are presented with diagrams showing where the cuts should be made.

  2. Harrison, why do you feel the need to rain on the Egyptians' parade? Of course the transformation to a democracy won't be easy, and could turn ugly in the future. But it has never been easy anywhere. The French Revolution turned into a Reign of Terror. The American Revolution turned into a Civil War 80 years later. But the French still celebrate Bastille Day, and we still celebrate the 4th of July. And Egyptians have every right to celebrate the 11th of February in the same way.

  3. Joe, the problem is... what are they celebrating, exactly? How can I get motivated with this unknown? Obviously the immediate answer is the departure of Mubarak but if the other thing they are celebrating is getting to chop off people's hands and make non-Muslims pay the Jizya then I don't see why I should be pleased at that.

    Let's hope that things go better than for the French under the Reign of Terror but, btw, July 14th celebrates the storming of the Bastille, not the Reign of Terror. I think the Civil War started over 100 years after the Revolution.

    And to be fair, I think you should have also posted one of President Bush's many speeches talking about bringing freedom to the Middle East because he spent 8 years on that subject.

  4. They are celebrating freedom and democracy and the power of the people to depose a dictator. What comes after that is unknown, but there is still plenty of reason for them to celebrate.

    We agree about the French Revolution. The Civil War started 84 years after the Declaration of Independence, but the seeds of it were planted at the founding of our country. Our own revolution was incomplete from the outset, and it actually took until 1965 before every American was allowed to participate in our democracy.

    And your point about Bush is well taken. He did try to start a movement to bring freedom and democracy to the Middle East. Look especially at his second inaugural address. That's all he talked about there. But the difference is that Bush did it by invading two countries at enormous cost and provoking tremendous backlash and ill will. Obama is succeeding by encouraging peaceful protest.

  5. I am hopeful that the people of Egypt will form a democracy and become even stronger allies of the United States. This process may have some bumps along the way, but the young people and well educated members of Egypt want a true democracy.

    I have been featuring a story of an Egyptian protestor at my blog, I trust these people to do the right thing.

  6. I will go with what Edmund Burke said after the French Revolution:

    I should, therefore, suspend my congratulations on the new liberty of France until I was informed how it had been combined with government; with public force; with the discipline and obedience of armies; with the collection of an effective and well-distributed revenue; with morality and religion; with the morality and religion; with the solidity of property; with peace and order; with civil and social manners.

    All these, in their way, are good things, too; and, without them, liberty is not a benefit while it lasts, and is not likely to continue long.

  7. "Everyone should wish the people of Egypt well in their continuing difficult quest for democracy and freedom."


    Both the left and the right are keen to take credit for changes in the ME. You note Obama. The right can argue that Bush deserves a great deal of credit for the push toward democracy in the middle east. Iraq is about as backward as it gets in that area, and when a proud Egypt sees the people of Iraq having free elections I am sured it weighed heavily on their minds that their country was a dictatorship.