Within the last few days, the Egyptian government unleashed a torrent of violence against citizens who gathered in Tahrir Square to protest the military’s reluctance to relinquish power. The protests attracted a wide variety of activists ranging from members of the Muslim Brotherhood to more secular progressives.
Western nations, notably the U.S., have denounced the crackdown. The White House recently issued a press release that stated, “The U.S. is deeply concerned about the violence and is calling for restraint on all sides.”
Egyptian authorities, however, could care less about the Western disapproval. In fact, an Egyptian state television anchor justified the government’s brutality by comparing their behavior to American law enforcement's reaction to Occupy protesters.
This kind of rationale indicates that when the U.S. engages in behavior that contradicts the values it espouses, it loses international influence.
Though the U.S. touts its “values” in order to justify its decisions, this is not very genuine. For example, the U.S. claims to supports democratization in the Middle East, but the number of coups the U.S. has engineered over the past century, notably the removal of Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953 in tandem with English intelligence, illustrates that we frequently place strategic interests and politics over our values. Similarly, when Bahrain made its push for democracy, American support, in comparison to that it provided to other states like Libya, was virtually nonexistent. The U.S. placed its strategic interests in Bahrain (the Fifth Fleet in particular) ahead of democratic values. Of course, the U.S. never admits this truth; the public would be disgusted if the government were to openly admit its selfishness.
It is necessary for us to maintain both our moral values and strategic outlook. When we disobey our own tenants espousing freedom of assembly and denouncing violence, we not only destroy our own ability to further our interests, but we abet those whose interests are contrary to ours. U.S. authorities that act aggressively against Occupy protesters devalue the ideal that authorities should not use unnecessary force against people. OWS violence make it difficult for the U.S. to use its moral leverage when negotiating, and sets a precedent for other nations to follow our lead.
The increasing availability of news and speed with which videos can travel across the world makes U.S. police forces' reaction to Occupy protesters even more threatening. When our government mismanages the careful balance between strategy and values, the repercussions resonate far more than they did in the past.
Photo Credit: WarmSleepy