Nationalism, Democracy, and the Arab Awakening
The difference between Egypt and Iran
(AntiWar.com) -- by Justin Raimondo --
The revolutionary wave sweeping through the Middle East promises to topple sclerotic Arab regimes throughout the region, but there is a marked difference between, say, Egypt and Iran – and the difference is the nationalist factor.
In Egypt, the people rose up against a US-supported dictatorship which had ridden on their backs for 30 years. It’s interesting to note that the regime, in the latter stages of the revolt, resorted to dark hints that the protesters were being run by mysterious “foreign elements.” And, indeed, there was a foreign element that played a key role – I would argue the key role – in Egyptian politics, and had been doing so for the past 30 years, albeit not on the side of the pro-democracy forces: namely, the US government. Washington gave over $60 billion in mostly military aid to the regime of Hosni Mubarak, enabling him to stay in power far longer than he would have otherwise managed.
Not only that, but this massive outpouring of dollars effectively handed control of the nation’s economic life to the military, which now controls as much as 30 percent of Egypt’s gross domestic product. Internal US government communications, revealed by the invaluable WikiLeaks, show diplomats complaining about the Egyptian military’s resistance to economic liberalization, but Washington failed to comprehend how US policy entrenched the military high command as a major player in the Egyptian economy.
Mubarak’s appeal to nationalist sympathies failed because he, and not the protesters, was seen as the agent of a foreign power: namely, the United States. While economic and internal political factors almost certainly sparked the upsurge, it was nationalism – in part energized by resentment of the dictator’s American patrons – that managed to sustain it and ultimately carry it forward to victory. Protesters carried Egyptian flags, and appealed directly to the army as the protector of the nation against Mubarak. In Bahrain, too, the protesters carried their national flag, and made an appeal to the military – this latter with decidedly deadly results. In any case, however, the nationalistic sentiment exuded by the pro-democracy forces is a defining feature of the most successful uprisings – to date, Egypt and Bahrain – while in Iran (and, to some extent, Libya) the situation is more complex...MORE...LINK