Democracy or peace?
by BRETT MARINO
Arguments from two different theatres of unrest in the Middle East agreed that with the current climates of civil strife in Egypt and Syria, peace does not equal democracy. The latest to make this argument is the nation’s top military office, Gen. Martin Dempsey, just recently back from the Syrian civil war; the other is the Israeli government’s open support for the Egyptian military.
In response to a letter from Rep. Elliot Engel of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Dempsey told Congress that the U.S. military could tip the weight of power in the Syrian war against the current Assad regime, but that none of the opposition groups could uphold the power vacuum that would take place with the removal of Assad.
Dempsey wrote, “Syria today is not about choosing sides but rather choosing one among many sides. It is my belief that the side we choose must be ready to promote their interests and ours when the balance shifts in their favor. Today, they are not.”
The general also acknowledge that while the U.S. can shift the balance of power in the region, “it cannot resolve the underlying and historic ethnic, religious and tribal issues that are fueling this conflict.”
This is the crux of the argument. How can we, how should we, promote democracy in a region that refuses to sit at the table with each other? This question can also be put to Egypt. But, according to many in Israel, the question is dead in the water, since democracy is no longer an option.
According to a New York Times report, Israel plans this week to intensify its diplomatic campaign urging Europe and the United States to support the military-backed government in Egypt despite its deadly crackdown on Islamist protesters. Their case is not based on the legitimacy of the Egyptian military, but on the fact that the Egyptian military is the only organization that can prevent further chaos in the area. This stance translates to Israel requesting that Western powers accept the fact that principals such as democracy and human rights should take a back seat to stabilization and security.
The Israeli official, speaking on conditions of anonymity, explained, “If you insist on big principles, then you will miss the essential – the essential being putting Egypt back on track at whatever cost. First, save what you can, and then deal with democracy and freedom and so on.”
This is the beginning of a difficult age in the Middle East. The Arab Spring was a bust, and now the hopeful protesters for peace, unity and democracy are having to choose war and opposing warlords.
So how should America and its Western allies proceed? Should we let the wars rage and watch the chaos bring forth its own leaders? Should we interfere either by force or by resource support and set up a prop government?
Either way, the actions of the United States will fuel negative emotions in many populaces of the Middle East. But the need for reflective thought and careful deliberation on this subject is just as important for America, herself, as it is the people of the Middle East. For what is her priority, democracy or peace?
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