Egypt: A new birth for an old idea

The crisis in the Middle East is the result of the failure of the national security establishment of both political parties since the Second World War to develop a foreign policy strategy both worthy of our nation and protective of our security.

For far too long our security establishment has accepted the Kissingerian notion of utilitarian alliances, which tolerates vile governments because their enemy is our enemy.

We opposed abuses of human rights, torture and massive corruption when governments that commit these acts are aligned against us. We condoned or ignored abuses of human rights, torture and massive corruption when governments that commit these acts are aligned with us.

You will not read this argument made with clarity on many op-ed pages or discussed by cable talking heads because it requires a rejection of an establishment consensus that has become the conventional wisdom of experts.

There is a correlation between "experts" who steered America to the latest financial crash and those who steered Egyptians toward the crash of the Mubarak regime.

America needs a new paradigm, new policy, new thinking and new debate within the national security establishment that begins with this:

People everywhere want a better life. People want a job. People want food on their plate. People want a better life for their children. People do not want to be beaten up, killed, raped, tortured, abused or have their money stolen by governments whether they are aligned with, or against, our interests.

Are you listening, Mr. Karzai, and members of our national security establishment? Do we want a 13-year war in a starving Afghanistan whose "leader" is surrounded by thieves, drug lords and embezzlers who take bribes from America on Monday, from the Taliban on Tuesday, from al Qaeda on Wednesday and from drug pushers on Thursday?

My argument is not whether to increase or decrease troop strength in Afghanistan. It is that either we end the corruptions our policy is subsidizing, or our policy is doomed regardless of troop strength, timelines and rationales.

America needs a great debate about how we achieve a foreign policy and security strategy that aligns our country with the interests of the world's people far more than we have, in far too many nations, since the Second World War.

Anyone who says this is easy is wrong, and anyone who fails to address these matters is ignorant of the aspirations that drive human beings everywhere, whether their governments are aligned with or against our interests.

It is possible for President Obama to lead and shape the democracy debate that is urgently needed. Many principled liberals, principled conservatives and principled military commanders agree that change is needed.

The conflagration in Egypt is no different from the movements that took down the Berlin Wall, opposed left-wing tyranny and right-wing dictatorships in Latin America, stood with the Statue of Liberty on the streets of Beijing, carried Mandela from the prisons of South Africa to the presidency of his nation and took Walesa and Havel from political prisons to world leadership.

Egypt is the latest example of an ancient idea that began long before our nation was founded and will flourish long after all of us are gone. Government should be of the people, by the people, and for the people. The more America implements this, the more secure we will ultimately be.