Western countries often claim the righteous moral rhetoric of supporting democracy as the basis for their foreign policies. The democratic message was used to its fullest potential during the fall of communism in eastern bloc. Communist foes collapsed; the people rose up against the resented Soviet occupier and were attracted by the West.
In contrast, in the Arab world, it is the West’s despotic allies that are falling, and the people there have long resented Western support for these dictators. The American policy in the Middle East and North Africa is aimed at stabilizing and empowering dictatorships and autocratic regimes in regions that suppress democracy. Clearly, the western belief in the democratic institutions is trumped by protection of its interests in these regions.
Examples abound, Egypt has been a major recipient of U.S. military aid even though there has been widespread election fraud and political repression. Even during uprising against their corrupt leaders, Western governments chose to still be on the wrong side. When people took to the streets of Tunis, France offered to help President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s security forces. When they filled the squares of Cairo, Italy praised Hosni Mubarak as the wisest of men. When Vice President Joe Biden was asked if he would characterize Mubarak as a dictator, Biden responded: ‘I would not refer to him as a dictator’. And when they were slaughtered in Tripoli, Italy predicted that the protests would lead to an Islamic emirate.
With every new Arab uprising, some Western country has placed itself on the wrong side of history. So it is no surprise that the West has been slow to tell these regimes to listen to demands for democracy and to condemn violent.
To be fair, Western foreign policy stance toward Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya have changed significantly over the past few weeks, but, that is entirely due to the perseverance of the people who left no choice for policy makers in the West. The support for despotic regimes still stands in the rest of the Arab world, especially those with substantial resources such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Algeria.
Western countries should stop supporting all these dictators in the Middle East and at the very least suspend the military aid that is used to suppress the voices advocating for democratic change. If the collapse of the eastern bloc was any guide, West stands to lose the support of newly formed Middle Eastern governments. The people tend not to forget who supported the despots when forming new governments.