I believe that we in the West lie to ourselves in regard to the rest of the world and how it works.
RecentÂ events in Egypt and Libya provide a good example of what I mean.
President Â Obama spoke with Hosni Mubarak a week or so before Mubarak stepped down. Â Obama said something along the lines of Â Mubarak being Â privileged to serve as a political leader, and said that he did so only Â at the will of the people (you can find the quote on a Â Piers Morgan podcast from late February 2011).
Mubarak Â ruled through 30 continual years of martial law with the blessing of the armed forces. Â It wasn't a privilege and and it wasn't at the will of the people. Â The fact that the President of the United States would say Â such a thing is evidence of my claim. Â That statement is clearly pure and unadulterated b*llshit, and yet nobody calls the man on it. Â I'm not even sure that many people see the foolishness of the statement.
If someone says that a military dictator (who in fact rules at the behest of the armed forces) rules as a privilege and only with the consent of his people, that person he equates the dictator with transparently leaders like Obama and Prime Minister Harper. Â That's like equating a thief with a volunteer at a soup kitchen. They aren't the same thing. They aren't even close to the same thing.
Obama is doing one of two things. Â He either fails to recognize that Western liberal democracy is a special state of political affairs, or he doesn't value it. Â Either way he demeans the rights enjoyed by us in the West and he also demans the hardships and lack of rights suffered by those among us who do not have the privilege of living in a Western liberal democracy.
I have to wonder why the President would Â make a statement like that.Â Why would someone often referred to as "the leader of the Free World" Â blur the lines between political systems that are by and large free and those that are by and large strictly controlled? Â
Is he naÃ¯ve? Is he cynical? Is he stupid? Â Is he misguided?Â
President Obama is smart. Â He may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, despite what his fans say, but he's clearly smart and very accomplished. Â However history shows that Â smart people can be cynical, Â naÃ¯ve Â and misguided. I think a person who possesses those qualities could be expeced to to make foolish statements, and to even believe them.
I choose the word Â naive because I think President Obama believes in moral relativism. Â He's not alone in this. Â I think he's cynical because he believes that the majority of people will buy what he's selling. Â Since he's been right on that score its tough to call him stupid. Â It is easy to call him misguided, however. Â He's either unclear on what his job is, or he thinks his job is politics. (For those not seeing the big picture, his job is to lead. He's already done enough politicking).Â
Smart people lose at many things. Â Smart lawyers lose in court, smart generals lose in war, and smart people lose money at poker tables. Â President Obama lost a lot in Egypt. Â He stands to lose more in Libya.Â
None of that means he's a liar. Â I don't believe he's conciously saying things he knows to be false. Â But he is failing to recognize something that a leader of a people should recognize - the nature of humanity and the world as it really is. Â A leader who does that doesn't inspire confidence.Â
But if he's not lying, who is? Â I'd argue that we are. By accepting his platitudes and treating them as worthy we lie to ourselves. Â By repeating the thoughts behind the platitudes Â we lie to ourselves. Â The words sound nice, but they don't carry much weight. Â Like the losing poker player who explains to the winner how well he played, we don't actually accomplish the goals we say we want to accomplish.Â
From the time that King Farouk was deposed by the miitaryÂ Egypt has been ruled by military strongmen . Â Mubarak didn't rule with the consent of the governed - he ruled because he could, and he could because he commanded the confidence of a miitary that runs the country like their personal business. Â Now that Mubarak is gone the armed Â forces will decide who rules in the future. Â Egypt is not on the cusp of democracy. Â The US does not control what's unfolding there, and no serious Egyptian political actorÂ (or group of them) requires the blessings of President Obama Â or any other Western leader or country. Â That's not to say that Western governments can't influence events in Egypt, now and in the future. Â I'm simply making the point that just as Moammar Ghadaffi ruled Libya without the blessing of Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama, so to will the next leader of Egypt. Â Good relations with the West can help Â a despotic leader, but they aren't a requirement for success.
What we saw in Egypt we also see with Libya. Â A man who rules by death and torture is admonished to realize that its time for him to go quietly. Â Why is anyone surprised that he responds with artillery?Â
Its time we stopped the lying and began being honest with ourselves. Â Egypt, Libya, the wider Middle East, Afghanistan, China, the global economy, the clash between the West and Islamism, global warming or Medicare - wemay not be able to solve the problems outright, but we can improve them. Â We're smart animals. Â We've put men on the moon and put the Library of Congress into a handheld digital device. Â We can accomplish a lot of concrete things when we put our minds to it. Â
Politicians are cynical and self interested. Â They lead only occassionally, and that's unlikely to change. Â Its time for a change, and the more honest we get with ourselves and each other, the less room they'll have for naivete and cynicism, and that will be good for all of us.