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Freedom for all

Mark Easley | Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ever since the protests for political change have kicked up across the Arab world, my colleagues on the right wing have feared about the takeover of anti-U.S. Islamic extremist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood that we have seen in places like Iran, Palestine and others in the Middle East. These fears are unwarranted in my opinion. The basic definition of freedom is the ability to choose your own fate in this world individually and collectively.

Freedom does not mean you are going to make the right or smart choices every time, but its success has been based on the fact that free peoples more often than not do make the right decisions. The conservatives in this country have nothing to fear from a free Egypt, because there is still a good chance that it will turn into a great democracy. Many will deny it, but the greater good we originally sought to achieve with our military presence in the Middle East is coming to fruition.

Tyrants are falling and nascent democracies are beginning to form in places that have never seen the phenomenon in centuries, if ever. We cannot measure or deny what the indirect role of having U.S. built democracies in the region is playing in this social and political upheaval we are now witnessing. Yes, our government has helped prop up some of the tyrants that are now threatened, but facts on the ground are changing and only now is American foreign policy beginning to catch up.

For all our optimism, what if even the good people of Egypt get turned by the evil of extremist theocracy? Well, at least we gave it a shot. The rise of political and militant Islam is an unfortunate, but common occurrence in Islamic countries. They have tied a religious system into a political system that cannot be easily separated. The dangers of this combination have already been revealed many times in the annals of history. Americans, present and future, will be forced to continue to the battle the followers of extremist Islam because those extremists are bent on our destruction.

They seek the decline of the West and a return to relevance for their people. Many will claim that disdain for radical Islam is demagoguery, but this is an idea that needs to be changed in favor of more mainstream and peaceful ideology. Something is amiss when young American-born Muslims can be turned into terrorists by puppet masters over the internet. Ideas like National Socialism, authoritarian communism and tyrannical monarchy do not go away without words exchanged and blood being spilled.

There is an upside to the rise of radical Islam on the world stage for those that seek the defeat of this old but newly powerful enemy. The fight becomes much easier when the enemy institutionalizes themselves instead of hiding in the shadows of crowds and the deep caves of mountains. War is easier to understand in the 20th century style of nation states, not in the guerrilla, non-conventional style of the 21st century. Monikers like Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, Imperial Japan, unstable North Korea and dangerous Iran make it easier to point out the bad guys.

The free people of Iran had a chance to choose their own fate in 1979 after the fall of the Shah and what they chose was an anti-American theocratic dictatorship that I predict will be at war with us within our lifetime. The ideology of the regime is too strong for something not to happen and for our side not to respond. Hezbollah and other militant groups maintain popular political support throughout the Arab world and can quickly step in to seize power if the status quo changes. Even in secular and democratic Turkey, religiously-biased political parties are gaining ground.

The Palestinians, in free elections, voted for their own Hamas “freedom fighters” (read terrorists) and as a result will continue to be at perpetual war with Israel. Time and time again Israel allows chances for peace, but the Palestinians fueled by a bloody history and unyielding ideology collectively choose to support Hamas, essentially extending the sword instead of the olive branch with their freedom.

Now it is Egypt’s turn to decide what they will do with their freedom. Assuming a new strong man does not come to power, Egypt will have a chance to develop either a mostly secular democracy or a conservative theocracy that leans on Sharia Law and Islamic doctrines that clash with Western liberalism.

The same choices apply to other Arab nations that are successful in their quest for social change. Will we see a new dawn of peace in the Middle East and the West or is a new Caliphate rising to seek to challenge the free world?

It is not we who should be scared of a free Egypt and Middle East; it is the Egyptians and Middle Easterners who should be scared of a failed democratic revolution.

Mark Easley is a junior majoring in computer science. He can be reached at measley@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.