Foreign policy chickens coming home to roost.

So Tunisia started it, who knows when it will end. Egypt is rioting, Yemen is demonstrating, and Jordan is tense. Pop quiz, what do Saddam Hussain, Mubarak, Ben-Ali, Salah, and the Shah of Iran all have in common? That’s right, they are, or were wildly unpopular rulers that were supported by the US government. So far, Iran has been the worst case scenario as far as how they have responded to the US after the leader was deposed. Our befriending of Saddam was mostly due to the ongoing strife that supporting the Shah and the shenanigans that brought him into power brought on.

If Egypt does wrest control from Mubarak, some interesting things are going to be put into motion. Here’s another question, what are Egyptians supposed to think of a US government that just told them that they shouldn’t want to be out from under Mubarak? For the record, Biden really is an ass and should not be allowed to speak in public. Would it really surprise anyone if the general populace in Egypt does not trust the US after having propped up the instrument of their repression for 30 years?

The reasons why people don’t like the US are many and varied, but it can’t be denied that “A friend of my enemy is my enemy” enters into people’s thinking. I don’t know how many times people in Yemen asked me why my government, supposedly in the land of the free, continued to support some of the worst autocratic rulers in the world. I couldn’t really tell them the truth, that US politicians and policy wonks considered those rulers adequate for keeping the rabble under control. It would just confirm their suspicions. I heard a joke over there, it went like this:

 

George Bush convenes a press conference and announces that as part of the war on terror, 100,000 Arabs will be killed, and 1 doctor. A member of the press asks the president, “Mr. President, why are you going to kill one doctor?” Bush then leans over to Rice and says, “See, I told you that no one cares about Arabs…”

I have heard several variations on that joke. Sometimes it is one Israeli, sometimes it is one American. In all cases, it is clear that people are interested in the single person over the 100,000 arabs.

I’m glad to see that the Obama administration is following a more nuanced treatment of Mubarak, Biden notwithstanding. With any luck, good old Hosni will be convinced to depart and let Egypt get on with the political evolution that has been stunted for these 30 years. Will things get ugly and complicated in the middle east? Undoubtedly. Will the folks at State and the leaders in this government learn any lessons about planting time bombs in foreign governments? I’m sure they won’t. SIgh….

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