Sunday 6 February 2011

Egyptian Protests: What does the West really want?

Like a lot of people I’ve been following the protests in Egypt over the last week. Egypt isn’t the sort of country that dominates the news headlines everyday, but that's what we've been seeing.

It looks as if many Egyptians have had enough of Hosni Mubarak's corrupt and brutal regime that's lasted for the last 30 years.

It's always inspiring to see people rise up against their leaders and demand reform and greater political freedom, but from the point of view of America and other Western powers how much democratic change and freedom do they want to see in Egypt?

For all the faults and criticisms levelled at Mubarak's regime, he's been an ally to the West, been a peaceful neighbour to Israel, and a moderate leading force in Arab politics.

Is it better for the West that a brutal and corrupt leader is removed, even if he guarantees stability in a volatile region - or support a popular uprising that demands greater freedom and democracy but could result in more uncertainty in the Middle East?

Things are changing in the Arab world. We saw it in Tunisia a few weeks ago, and now it's spread to Egypt, it's a domino effect. Who's going to be next?

I don't really know much about the politics of many Arab states but I've been discovering that many countries in the region are ruled by dictators and absolute monarchs.

If I've learned anything from the uprising in Egypt and Tunisia it's this: Many people in these countries want to have what we in the West have. They want democracy, freedom and prosperity.

On the one hand this is great for World leaders in the West, but you can't just create a free and democratic society in a matter of weeks or months.

For all the many faults of brutal dictatorships, they do bring about a form of stability which can have its benefits.

The West have found this in Egypt. Once a figurehead is removed after so many years, you can have a political void, with nobody really sure what will replace it.

This is the dilemma that the West has, Mubarak goes but who or what replaces him? I keep hearing about The Muslim Brotherhood, the biggest opposition group, but the last thing America or or Britain wants is an Islamic state in Egypt.

I think back to Iraq, Saddam Hussein ruled for years, but after he was overthrown following the 2003 invasion, it was as if his removal opened up a can of worms.

We saw sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and Iraq is only just recovering from the political and social chaos.

I'm not saying this will happen in Egypt but it's a really tricky situation for America to deal with. Mubarak's time looks to be up, but we're a long way from finding out who's really going to benefit from this uprising.

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