Smartphones, Not Smart Bombs

Civil unrest in Tunisia, protesters in the streets of Libya, and Mubarak stepping down in Egypt. We are seeing Democracy literally born before our eyes in a region that six months ago no one would have suspected was really ripe for change of this magnitude, no matter how repressed the populace was. What we’re witnessing in fact, is a triumph of true Democracy. A region’s people, tired of of the tyranny they’d suffered for decades has taken to the streets, demanding change. They are demanding their voices be heard. No more rigged “elections.” No more stealing of the foreign aid to further fill the coffers of the rulers.

The Bush administration should be ashamed of themselves. Why? Because their entire objective-allegedly-was to spread peace and democracy to a region that has been devoid of it. They argued that the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan would secure peace for Americans in two ways. First, those nations were harboring terrorists whose only mission in life was to destroy us. Secondly, and perhaps in their eyes more importantly, we would be helping to install a truly democratic government in both Afghanistan and Iraq, thereby creating instant allies in the middle and far east.

Well, jump cut to nearly ten years later, and can we really say that Iraq and Afghanistan are democratized nations? Yes, their dictators and oppressive ruling parties have been ousted and they are no longer “in power.” But there are strong insurgent groups in both countries, supporters of the old regimes, that are still fighting for control.

I’m not arguing that Egypt, Tunisia and certainly Libya will transition easily into Democracy. It took our own nation six years after winning its independence to have a ratified Constitution that all thirteen colonies could agree on…and even then it took things like legalizing the paradigm that all black men we only worth 60% of a white man to get it done. The road to a republican democracy is not an easy one, no matter how you slice it. However, these people have taken, in the words of Obi-Wan Kenobi “their first steps into a much larger world.”

As hard as it will be for the protesters in the streets to go from dissidents to citizens of a new government establishment, they are already miles and miles ahead of those in Iraq and Afghanistan. The main difference of course is that this insurrection, this forced change of power is coming from the oppressed people themselves. A citizenry of disenchanted, beaten-down people are saying “Enough is enough” and they are taking to the streets. In fact, Egypt’s revolution has been so far less bloody than our own. The guns of Egypt’s army (trained by our own military professionals) were never set on the people.

The “democracy” that the Bush administration tried to enact in their invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq weren’t driven by the people themselves. This isn’t to say that those people couldn’t possibly benefit from their dictators being removed from power, but it wasn’t their fight. Their only vested interest in all of this has been to stay alive; to survive. I have no doubt that the people of Afghanistan probably for the most part prayed for the day that the Taliban would no longer be in power. But for whatever reason, they didn’t take the power into their own hands.

Who knows? Maybe if they’d have seen the events in the region unfolding these past few weeks they would’ve gained the courage to do the very same thing in Kabul. Not long after the United States gained its independence from Great Britain, other revolutions in other countries were sparked. The French Revolution for example, was a direct uprising of its people against a ruling class they no longer felt deserved that kind of power. Human beings are simians. Primates. Monkey see, monkey do. “Oh those people over there did that, and didn’t get wiped out? Maybe we should do the same thing!” The people in Egypt were encouraged by what they saw going down in their own backyards in Tunisia. The Human Spirit is strong. And within every human there are strong desires to be free, truly free.

It was an Egyptian employee of Google that, with his Facebook page further encouraged the fight for freedom in Cairo. Freedom of information helping to instill courage and desire for independence. Gee, who’d have thunk? So the Internet, a free communication and information medium helped to bring about democratic change…and not a single drone or stealth bomber had to fly into their airspace.

Smart phones, not smart bombs, are needed in this new era. The Internet has made this already small world even smaller. We can communicate almost instantaneously with the farthest reaches of this planet of ours, providing just a little bit of infrastructure is in place to do so. Since the end of World War II and the establishment of Israel and West Germany when has there been a truly successful installation of democracy with brute force? The fundamental failure of any democracy put in place by anyone other than that nation’s own citizens is so apparent, I’m astounded that it’s still attempted. Democracy is defined as a government wherein the people rule themselves. Any attempt for an outside force to install a government in its own best interest, and not those of the citizens is a sham, and not a real democracy. Of course we were going to fail in Vietnam. Of course we floundered in Afghanistan and Iraq. We were acting like the big-brother that couldn’t just let the people of the world figure it out for themselves.

Going forward, we need to all learn from the example that Egypt has given us. I know it’s a myopic proposition, but why can’t the digital age bring us peaceful transitions into true democracy, wherever the people desire it? You could say I’m a dreamer…but I have a feeling I’m not the only one. Gee, that sounds really cool, doesn’t it? Kind of poetic. Lyrical, even.