Egypt is in turmoil. As I write this, more than 500 people have been killed and thousands wounded in an ongoing conflict between the Egyptian military (on behalf of a coup-installed junta) and supporters of the overthrown Muslim Brotherhood regime (supporters of the Brotherhood believably claim the death toll is probably much higher).
In the United States, the Obama administration has shied away from identifying the coup as a coup, maintaining that it serves the “national interest” to continue military aid to whoever rules in Egypt. By doing so they hope for continued influence in the region.
US President Barack Obama condemned the actions taken by Egypt’s interim government, saying “The United States strongly condemns the steps that have been taken by Egypt’s interim government and security forces. We deplore violence against civilians. We support universal rights essential to human dignity, including the right to peaceful protest.”
If this statement were true the US would take an entirely different approach toward the Middle East. Case in point: How is the US responding to the situation? Well, the US military will no longer participate in Operation Bright Star — a military war game involving thousands of US, Egyptian and other allied troops in the region. This is not a crushing blow to the Egyptian military; the war game has been canceled in the past for various reasons. The cancellation is for show, fodder to cover for falling US influence in the region.
What we are seeing in Egypt and across the Middle East is the consequence of decades of US hegemony. Supporters of US policy in the region will argue that military aid to Egypt, arming Syrian rebels, drone strikes in Yemen, occupied forces in Afghanistan, etc, serve a national interest and that the “Great Peacekeeping Armadas” of western nation states are doing exactly what they are supposed to: Maintain peace through strength.
Is this a terribly misguided philosophy or a bold-faced lie? Does Obama really “deplore violence against civilians?” Do US special interests really “support universal rights essential to human dignity?” Has any administration? Not long ago Obama was joking about drone strikes at the White House Correspondents Dinner. US policy has killed hundreds of thousands of people, maimed even more and displaced millions. The rhetoric is always the same, no matter what liar is occupying the White House.
For the sake of argument, however, let’s take US rhetoric at face value and accept that the end goal is peace in the Middle East by establishing democracy throughout the region (George W. Bush logic). Though I agree that democratic governments are superior to totalitarian states we must remember that governments do not represent the wishes of the public. Governments represent the wishes of those with power and influence.
What is happening in Egypt is a direct consequence of US foreign policy.
So what is the answer? The exact opposite of what governments have done throughout their existence. The most effective way to ensure peace is through true democratic consensus in the public arena — away from centralized institutions such as the state and global corporations. The faster we disassociate from our power structure, the faster a liberated society will build true peace.
It is not in the interests of human beings to die for and/or because of governments. It is in our interests to associate with global uprisings against neo-liberal economic policy, interventionism and the consequences of centralized power.