The rise of powerful Islamic parties [in Egypt] appears inevitable… not because of the Quran or a backward tradition, but because we and Israel believed we could bend the aspirations of the Arab world to our will through corruption and force. — Chris Hedges, Jan. 31, Truthdig
U.S. foreign policy is like the mattress delivery truck I saw the other day in South Philly. The driver and his co-pilot made the mistake of braving a narrow street to make a delivery a day after a snowstorm. The street had been plowed but not thoroughly, and the truck was soon spinning its wheels, stuck in snow that was deeper than it looked. Three times the truck got stuck and broke free after a lot of wasteful revving and gear-grinding and spewing of exhaust fumes. But then the driver was too impatient to make the tricky turn onto Ninth Street and instead forged onto the next little street, where the truck got stuck in the same mess.
The drivers at the U.S. State Department hold the wheel steady and forge into one Third World country after another, confident that America has the horsepower and sheer bulk to roll over any obstacles to our acquisition of cheap oil. Are the people pissed off because the Shah or Saddam Hussein or Hosni Mubarak is torturing/starving/stealing from them? No problem, send the dictator another billion to bulk up the army, and gently advise him to stop slaughtering so many activists and give the people a bit more grain.
This is called realpolitik, the religion of characters like Henry Kissinger and Hillary Clinton — high-profile policy wonks who are always surprised when, after decades of repression, these Third World side streets, our shortcuts to the oil fields, are suddenly jammed with millions of people angry not only at the dictators but at those who propped up the dictators in order to fuel America’s gas guzzlers.
We lost Iran because we backed the Iranians who were on the wrong side of history. The same thing might be happening in Egypt, regardless of how and when Mubarak makes his exit. Once again, the big truck is spinning its wheels, but this time it’s a lot closer to running out of gas.