Idealism or Realpolitik


I’m with The Observer on this one: Cairo protests: The west has a duty to nurture democracy

On one side are hundreds of thousands of Egyptians demanding fair elections; on the other side is an authoritarian president mobilising a bullying state apparatus against the crowd. Leaders of western democracies need not have hesitated over whom to support.


The policy of supporting governments that scorn democracy is a dead end. It makes a hypocrisy of western claims to support the aspirations of ordinary people. It alienates opposition movements, non-governmental organisations and civil society leaders who are the best hope for transition to more stable, plural politics in the region.

A clear-sighted appraisal of western interests in the Middle East would reveal that the choice between the idealism and realpolitik is a false one. Putting trust in leaders such as Hosni Mubarak is not a mark of strategic caution, but a reckless gamble and a guarantee of future instability. Trusting people to choose their own leaders in free elections is also something of a gamble. But that approach has a better chance of preserving the west’s moral authority and retaining some popular goodwill in the Arab world. Those are far more reliable guarantors of stability and security.

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One Response to “Idealism or Realpolitik”

  1. Mike Says:

    The protest movement in Egypt has really laid bare the contradictions of US foreign policy, though these were visible for anyone who was following events in the Gaza Strip and elsewhere. The US claims to support democracy everywhere, but in reality it only allows democratically elected movements and leaders to maintain power when they serve their US interests. The pinnacle of absurdity is for Obama to give a speech after the protests in Egypt claiming that the US always supports universal human rights. This is nonsense, since Obama and all other US presidents did nothing to end Mubarak’s 30-year autocracy, and Obama is only reacting to a democratic movement that is challenging the leaders the US has funded.

    And I agree, what is needed is a commitment on the part of the west to democracy. Dictatorship may seem convenient in the short term to western policymakers, but it leads to long-term instability.

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