What a bender. The government in Tunisia is gone. Hosni Mubarak teeters in Egypt. King Abdullah has sacked his government in Jordan. The Israelis are blind sided. It looks like the end of the world as we know it. But do we feel fine?
Like most things, only time will tell. During the Cold War, America trumpeted freedom like there was no tomorrow. We witnessed the rise of Solidarity and the collapse of the USSR. We also armed the Taliban, I mean the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan. Like I said.
Then came W who made Wilsonian messianism the score and libretto of our foreign policy. America fought a war of no choice in Afghanistan and a war of whim in Iraq. We shocked and awed and we accomplished our mission. Or so we said. The government in Kabul is now corrupt, as opposed to being Talibanic. Except that the Taliban is still there. And in Iraq, we empowered a Shia government, at the expense of a Sunni dictator. Lots of blood has been spilled, but the natives are restless and scornful.
Which brings us to now. I don’t have a clue as to what happens next. America acts puzzled. The regions autocrats are worried. Israel is anxious. All of this is understandable.
This looks like it should be a teachable moment, but what is to be taught? The people united shall never be divided? Democracy rules? God is great? Dictators are bad? What will be taught is best left to others.
Except this — there are limits and people push back.
In the United States, we rebelled against king in parliament and we battled over slavery. Ironically, the Confederate Constitution expressly invoked God and liberty, and enshrined the right to own slaves.
In England, Cavaliers killed Puritans and visa versa. And in ancient Israel, Judeans vainly went at Rome.
Everyone seems to have their versions of freedom, tyranny and cause.
Today it is time to watch. There will be time later for elegies.
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