Hosni Mubarak and Saddam Hussein
The pro-establishment, neocon line on the tremendous revolutionary events in Egypt has essentially been as follows:
“Sure, Mubarak might be a brutal strongman, but he ensures stability. This is why the U.S. government has favored him—as a lesser of evils. Those trying to oust him from power have employed violence, and many in Egypt are fearful that they will lose everything to any major political upset. Those seeking to displace Mubarak’s rule do not have liberty in mind, but Islamist radicalism or even chaotic anarchy. They oppose the dictatorship because it is secular. And with him gone, will the Egyptian people actually enjoy liberty? Or will we see the rise of Muslim extremists in the flavor of Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979.”
Oddly enough, the arguments offered above applied many times over against the neocons’ pet project of the last decade: The Iraq war.
Saddam Hussein was indeed a brutal strongman who was favored by the US government for decades for being the lesser evil. The many factions fighting on the side of the US government against Saddam’s regime included domestic socialists and Muslim radicals who saw Saddam as a secular apostate ruler. The war against Saddam’s government also employed violence—but rather than mostly coming from the disenfranchised public and largely directed against those in power, the violence of the Iraq war involved the dropping of millions of pounds of explosives all over neighborhoods populated by everyday denizens of the country. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis have died in America’s war. And what replaced Saddam’s regime? Not liberty, but the rise of Muslim extremists exactly in the flavor of Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979. Yet through it all, partisans of George W. Bush’s foreign policy, and not a few left-liberal warmongers to boot, have echoed the same line: But isn’t the world better off without Saddam Hussein?
Yet they do not speak the same language regarding Mubarak. Won’t the world be better off with him out of power? And if his ouster comes internally from the populace, rather than externally from the largest military in the world, isn’t that a bit more in the spirit of the American Revolution, which nearly everyone on the right side of the spectrum, and the pro-war side of the debate, idealizes? Do we really think the “collateral damage” in Egypt will rise to the level it did in Iraq? Will whatever replaces Mubarak be any worse than what has replaced Saddam Hussein?
The main difference between the two dictators? One was a U.S. client up until 1990, when the U.S. turned on him. The other was a U.S. client, defended by U.S. politicians, even a week into the revolutionary zeal that overswept his subjects and threatened the stability of his reign. A lot of the loudest American voices calling for blood in 2003 promised that after Shock and Awe, revolutions would follow all throughout the Muslim world. Now that one is happening, they side with the dictator.