The effects of the successful democratic protests in Tunisia and Egypt have inspired thousands, perhaps millions, of ordinary Muslims to turn out the streets in an effort to draw attention to the authoritarian and often brutal regimes under which they live. Protesters in North Africa and the throughout the Persian Gulf are demanding political reform and elections in an inspiring show of solidarity against oppression. This is good news.
The bad news is this. People in countries like Iran, Bahrain, and Yemen face entrenched governments desperate to hold onto power, governments armed with U.S. made weapons once used to prop up governments against Islamic fundamentalism now used to beat and murder peaceful protesters. How did the U.S. become complicit in the deaths of foreign nationals seeking democratic reform? Easy. The enemy of my enemy is my friend has long been the hallmark of American foreign policy. The U.S. government in its insistence that it is protecting the national security of its people has armed one dictator to depose another, and now those arms are being used to suppress the swell of democracy that is growing throughout the Middle East.
American foreign policy has proceeded on such short-sighted terms before. In Egypt the U.S. propped up the sham Presidency of Mubarak with arms and foreign aid that would later be used (responsibly, thanks to the patience and professionalism of the Egyptian military) against the democratic protesters. This also happened in Iraq and Tunisia and many other places where the mantra “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” amounts to a schizophrenic interpretation of who are enemies and friends actually are.
Now the people of Bahrain who want political reform and elections are paying the price for our foreign policy schizophrenia. American citizens must be embarrassed that its government purports to promote democracy around the world, even while its tax-funded, American-made weapons are now being used to suppress the spirit of democracy with deadly force.