Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The significance of Egypt, social media, and a history of American foreign policy

In the wake of the uprising in Egypt which successfully ousted its dictator Hosni Mubarak, it is a good time to examine two things. One is American foreign policy and its history. The other is the rise of social networking and the influence it has had on uprisings in recent years.

On the first point, while the United States has always expressed support for democracy, it has often failed to put its money where its mouth is. While opposing foreign conflict for most of the 19th century, a precedent of foreign intervention began with the Spanish-American War under a pressured President William McKinley and was accelerated under President Woodrow Wilson that continues to be followed to this day. Over the past century the United States has often intervened in other countries and backed dictators as a means of maintaining stability, making a profit off of resources in a region (usually oil), or containing communism. Some of the worst of this occurred in the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan backed many repressive Central American regimes. All of this of course has expectedly had many negative consequences, including the rise of brutal regimes in the Middle East, and the fueling of the Anti-American sentiment that among other things, inspired the 9/11 plot (and even more of that sentiment has arisen because of the American response). Recently, foreign interventions in the Middle East have been justified by an argument for stability. In the wake of Egypt's uprising, it is best to reconsider foreign policy and practice what we preach when it comes to democracy so we don't come down as hypocrites, or on the wrong side of history.

On the second point, it is quite a phenomenon that the brainchildren of a few college students and tech experts has been used as a tool making it easier for people to organize and assemble than ever before, and has made it much more difficult for governments to crack down on such movements. They can no longer just stop TV stations and newspapers, because individuals have other methods showing the world what is happening in their countries. We have seen this in numerous dictatorial countries over the past couple of years, most notably beginning with protests against the last election in Iran, and it has since spread throughout the region. Another remarkable aspect what has been going on is the way that young people have been using technology to organize these events, something that has only really become possible in recent years. It will be interesting to see how modern technology continues to affect the region in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Good connection between history and social networking.