We are witnessing a revolution in the Middle East. This has happened because democratic reform has been stifled for decades. It is similar to keeping a lid on a boiling pot of water. It is ironic, that Egypt's Mubarak's military government did not see the warning signs. Gamal Abdel Nasser, a young military commander, along with Anwar Sadat and other revolutionaries, overthrew the British-backed King Farouk. Jefferson Caffery, the American ambassador, and subject of my doctoral dissertation, played a pivotal role in obtaining Farouk's abdication and the peaceful transfer of power to Nasser. However, the world has changed since 1952. Instant communication via social networking and satellites are allowing average Egyptians to communicate the positive and negative aspects of their current internal strife.
The United States is a great and strong democracy. However, we continue to evolve. When our country was founded, only white males could vote. Slaves were not given their freedom for another 90 years. While black males gained suffrage, southern states enacted "black codes" that took away some of their civil rights. Many African-Americans were intimidated to vote due to the Ku Klux Klan. Women were not given the right to vote until 1920, and today, we have an African-American president. Again, all of this took time and patience. You take two steps forward and at times take a step back before you gain momentum again.
Libya's Muammar Gaddhafi is the next leader to be ousted. Good riddance. However, real democracy is a long road forward. I believe that evolution is better than revolution. Should these autocratic leaders leave immediately, a power vacuum could develop without a central leader. Fighting could erupt between the conservatives and the radical Islamic movement, leaving the moderate students and working class sandwiched in the middle. That is what happened to Iran in 1979 after the Shah had fled.
During my first of three visits to Egypt, in the Spring of 1981, I visited the Cairo Zoo on a Sunday. It wasn't the animal exhibits that led me there, but a chance to see average Egyptian families enjoying the day. I wore a white T-shirt emblazoned with the American flag. Numerous Egyptians stated, "Welcome to Egypt. We love the United States." Today, it would be dangerous to show American pride in the Middle East. Why?
American society has been slowly declining over the past 35 years and it all started, ironically, in Egypt. In 1973 Sadat led other Arab states to conduct a surprise attack against Israel. Initially, the invasions were successful and many thought Israel would lose. The United States swiftly airlifted crucial military supplies from Europe and Israel went on the offensive. OPEC responded by embargoing oil against the United States and caused a major world recession in 1974-75. Since that time, the United States has abandoned its core values of democracy and freedom in the Middle East due to our increasing addiction to foreign oil. Do you think the United States would have cared about Saddam Hussein invading Kuwait if we did not need Middle Eastern oil? Would we be in Afghanistan today? Today the average price of gasoline is $3.18 for a gallon. However, if you add the two trillion dollars we spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus the interest on our debt due to these wars, and the incalculable loss of human life, the cost of gasoline is much higher.
Democracy is fragile. The average American wants the same ultimate goals as the protesters in Tahrir Square. The Egyptians have to be resolute in their determination, while slowly chipping away at authoritarian rule. The best hope for Egypt and the rest of the world is for the United States to finally end its dependence on foreign oil and bring our soldiers home from over 100 foreign military bases. Let China and India fight for the Middle Eastern oil and America can once again be the beacon of hope for oppressed peoples.