Of the myriad reasons why I would not want the job of President of the USA, among the top would be foreign policy. There are very few times a president can point to a solid political win in the foreign policy arena. President Reagan brought down the Soviet Union but Gorbachev was given the credit, even though the last thing Gorbachev would want to do is destroy his own government.
The situation in Iraq seems to be stabilizing. We know this because the major media outlets ignore it. Afghanistan is still a mess, but let's not forget that we went in there because there was a real threat to us from the major controlling party (the Taliban). Were mistakes made in these examples? You bet. There are always mistakes made in such major undertakings, which makes my point that whatever is done, there will always be room for criticism.
Most of the time, unlike the examples above, there is not a clear win or loss when dealing with other countries. This is most certain when dealing with countries in the Middle East. There is only one stable Democratic nation in the region, Israel. Any other nation we have dealings with in the Middle East, with the current exception of Iraq and maybe Turkey (although that is not too clear) will be monarchies or theocracies and all to often the ruler will be a despot.
The current uprisings in Egypt look all to familiar to us old enough to remember the "youth movement" that toppled the Shaw of Iran. The similarities are very frightening and the criticisms directed at our involvement in both instances could be carbon copied. The value of hindsight is infinite and it is easy to be critical when one excludes the value of what might have been gained from such foreign entanglements. There are plenty of examples where our nation's foreign policy efforts have gone awry and we have been left with a less than desirable outcome. Nonetheless, doing nothing and becoming isolationist has it's pit falls, as well.
In the case of Egypt, let us look back at how and why we became involved. In 1979, Egypt's ruler Anwar Sadat signed a peace treaty with Israel. To help foster this peace between our ally, Israel, and Egypt we entered into normal relations with Egypt, including giving of aid. In the years since, we have continued to give aid and we have helped to train their military. Their military is now among the most respected in the world. In 1981 Anwar Sadat was assassinated and Hosni Mubarek became president. The troubles in Egypt today are as a result of a suspected rigged reelection of Mubarek as president.
In the tradition of Middle East monarchs and despot presidents, Sadat and Mubarek have been brutal to their people. Dealing with them and others of the same ilk has not always been very palatable but has netted us a stable peace for Israel for the last thirty years. This peace has allowed Israel to become a major power and stabilizing influence in a region that is not known for its stability. Since the Egyptian military has been trained here in the U.S., we have been able to impress upon them a way of life that they may not have known existed. It is this influence that, hopefully, will lead to a peaceful outcome in their current struggles.
While an advocate of freedom, we cannot be blind to the fact that the demonstrations in Egypt have been organized by groups that are not friendly to Israel or the U.S. and will ultimately enslave the people of Egypt in the way that Hamas has in Palestine. It would be tragic if the Democracy that the Egyptians are seeking turns out to be only one election, as it has occurred in both Palestine and Iran (Iran does hold elections, the way the Soviet Union used to hold elections, that give you only one choice and plenty of pressure to vote the right way). There is not much we can do to prevent this and I fear for the Coptic Christians that make up ten percent of the Egyptian population if the Muslim Brotherhood manages to gain power.
My hope for the Egyptians is that they will establish a just government and their military is the best chance for that hope. If not, Israel will once more have to contend with another hostile Islamic state on their border and the peace that we have helped to foster for thirty years will come to an end.
I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there; in her fertile fields and boundless prairies, and it was not there; in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there. Not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
- de Tocqueville 1831
- de Tocqueville 1831