Imagine if Dick Cheney was your president for thirty years ...
Written by Cole Finchen
Friday, 04 February 2011 03:09
Dr. Christopher Wise has been teaching at Western since 1996, starting as an assistant professor of English specializing in global literatures.
Wise earned his Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of California, Riverside in 1992. He has written books including "Chomsky and Destruction: The politics of unknown knowledge" and "Derrida, Africa, and the Middle East."
What effect did the events in Tunisia have on the protests in Egypt?
The events in Tunisia served as a catalyst, but the Arab world has long been unsatisfied with its political leaders, who are widely perceived as puppets installed to serve in the interests of the United States. People throughout North Africa and the Middle East have been waiting a very long time for something like this to happen, and it finally has.
WikiLeaks helped to get things started because the communiqués it disclosed exposed the extent to which the U.S. State Department is very much aware of — in a cynical but realistic way — the thoroughly corrupt and oppressive nature of most Arab regions, like in Tunisia before the revolt.
What current events have helped cause the protests?
Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak succeeded Anwar al-Sadaat, who was killed by the Muslim Brotherhood for cutting a deal with the Israelis, so that Egypt could get the Sinai Peninsula back from Israel, which Egypt lost in the Six Day War (in 1967.)
Egypt also became the second largest recipient of U.S. aid at this time. The price Egypt had to pay was walking away from the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This effectively meant the end of the Pan-Arab movement and (stirring up) popular unrest for years to come in Egypt.
U.S. foreign policy has systematically targeted secular, or at least (interreligious), Pan-Arab movements like Ba'athism and Nasserism. As a result, Islam groups like the Muslim Brotherhood — which is an extremist Wahhabi and ethnically Arab-based movement, not unlike Bin Laden's al Qaeda, only not quite as crazy and self-righteous — have stepped into the vacuum created by the United States' targeting of secular Arabist political movements.
The United States never wanted a strong and united Arab world, for instance, an Arab equivalent of the European Union or a "United States of Arabia," because if that happened, the first thing the Arab world might do is to expel the United States and its various oil companies from the region.
For instance, the Arab world may decide China is a better partner than the United States. This would be a disaster for the U.S. economy, but it would be just fine for most Arabs — the ones who have not been bought off with U.S. dollars.
So the United States targeted secular Arabist movements like the Palestine Liberation Organization and Ba'athism and instead supported religious fundamentalist regimes, like what you have in Saudi Arabia, which is the most repressive and extremist government in the world, and not coincidentally the most virulent enemy of secular Arabism, the Zionist state of Israel notwithstanding. The Arab world is sick to death of being cynically manipulated by the United States and the Arab leaders it props up to serve United States interests.
Do you attribute the protests to current events, or has this tension existed throughout the presidency of Mubarak?
The tension has always been there. Mubarak was Sadaat's successor. He is rightly perceived in Egypt as a leader who carried on Sadaat's "realist" philosophy of accommodation with Israel and the United States.
What is troubling is the steady rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, which represents a powerful political constituency in Egypt. Witness the experiences of Egyptian Christians, who are more imperiled now than ever before. This is a revealing sign of how badly things have deteriorated in Egypt.
The State Department, under Hillary Clinton, mouths platitudes about how Arab leaders must respect democracy, but the Arab world is not anti-democratic as much as it is "anti-liberal." You give the Arab world democracy — real democracy — and it is going to choose an Islamist government, as happened in Palestine and Lebanon. The United States has no one but itself to blame for this situation because of its decades old policy of "realpolitik," or because it has sided with religious fundamentalists and has demonized secular Arabist movements.
What does the Egyptian government have to do to quell the protests? Do you think Mubarak should step down?
There will probably be some power sharing arrangement between Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and an innocuous successor of Mubarak that will emerge. Mubarak is finished anyway. If he's not, the Egyptians are really and truly screwed. Mubarak doesn't deserve to be the leader of Egypt and its wonderful and ancient people.
Imagine if Dick Cheney was your president for thirty years and your best hope was that Dick Cheney's idiot son might someday replace him. You might begin to feel a little restless and desperate too. This is the situation for much of the Arab world.
cheney nazi zombie