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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

America Must Stay in the Middle East

<otests abound in the Middle East, and for what?  What has come of the past months of youth revolt and government tumult in the intersection of Asia, Africa, and Europe?

Confusion and disorganization, surely.  In rebuilding, it often seems necessary to raze the foundations of whatever lay previous, and Arabs and others in the Middle East find themselves in the middle of the resulting shambles now. 

Blueprints, though, have been drafted and bricks laid for new democratic regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.  These countries are now certified democracies, perhaps the first official, tangible results of the Arab Spring.  This is certainly something to be celebrated, as the former method of control in each of these states was autocratic, devoid of their peoples’ voices. 

These young governments, though, however inspired, are not successful yet.  Unemployment is rising in all three new Middle Eastern democracies to match the stagnant global economy, leaving the people uneasy and the administrations unsure.  While democracy, is up and running, it has not yet proven itself, and the rest of the world is sitting on the edge of its seat, waiting to see how liberal reform will play out in what was one of the most authoritarian areas on Earth.  The United States, in particular, is nervously looking on as some of its own projects develop.

Many scholars stop at the relative failure we’ve seen so far.  They say that America’s work is done, that we should get out now and concentrate our work elsewhere to avoid further entangling ourselves in other governments.  Others say that our attempts have failed and that we should leave to salvage our remaining dignity. 

Both of these views are absolutely wrong.  America must not stop halfway through.  I say this not out of patriotic fervor or a determined sense of pride, but out of a desire for democracy rather than the dictatorships we saw in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.  I cannot stress enough that it is essential that these new governments be, if not completely successful, at least significantly better than the previous administrations before the U.S. even considers refocusing its attention.

The Middle East’s view of democracy is too delicate for anything else.  For us in America, democracy is the norm – a vast majority of us have never lived in anything else.  We argue about politics and voice nit-picking complaints, forgetting about the places in the world where this is forbidden by law.  Democracy in America, therefore, is not so much a point of view as a way of life – it’s simply in the air. 

This is why it is so easy to forget that not everyone on Earth has access to such a luxury.  The positive view of democracy by Arabs and others in the Middle East has not solidified as much as ours has, and that’s why it is so important for these new democratic governments to thrive.  If they do, others will follow and masses of people will be convinced that democracy will lead to a better life for them.  If they don’t, we leave a huge chunk of the world – a very, very important chunk – with the belief that democracy isn’t worth the trouble. 

If you believe that democracy is worth the trouble, you want America helping with this effort as much as it can.  This is not an argument about isolationism; rather, it is a matter of whether we believe democracy is a better way for people to live than autocracy is.  I think that all of us here in America, especially those of us who study at a place like Carleton, can attest to that.

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