Friday, June 13, 2008

Dumbing Down Democracy

I've seen a couple of condemnations of this NYTimes article floating around the blogosphere. The primary criticism is that it seems to suggest that Egyptians harbor some nationalist pride that is hurt when foreign leaders criticize their own government. My estimation is that this is incorrect - it isn't that Bush criticized some beloved figure in Hosni Mubarak - it was that Bush deigned to criticize the Egyptian government for actions the US is also guilty of (human rights abuses in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, supporting Israel's blockade of Gaza, funding corrupt Arab regimes, financing secret prisons in Eastern European countries, etc.) I have spoken with a few government officials and numerous academics: the bottom line is that Bush's remarks are condescending (his speeches are littered with words like "teaching," "tutoring," "nurturing," and "fostering)." If the Bush administration is setting any example at all it is to flout international law and consensus and pursue unilateral foreign policy without regard to international norms. One government official said Bush: “spoke as a professor trying to give lessons.” And this was directly after leaving Israel to celebrate its 60th Birthday (at a time when Egyptian support for Israel's blockade of Gaza is a particularly contentious subject in the domestic political scene).

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