By Ken Feltman
The strategic interests of a nation are used to justify support of authoritarian rulers: They may be tyrants, but they are our tyrants. Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak served a purpose – he maintained stability in a region of critical U.S. interests. In a crisis, the first reaction of pragmatic politicians, in Egypt and around the world, is to maintain stability. The Egyptian people have suffered years of oppression for that stability. But now the people demand something much more eloquent and elusive – their dignity.
In the hearts and minds of many Egyptian people, this was never about stability. This started with more immediate concerns about jobs and rising food prices. Now, with Mubarak leaving, it has escalated into something more elemental: Self-determination. The people want a voice in what happens to them. They will risk instability for something better, even if any resulting instability makes it easier for more oppressive rulers to seize power.
We can reflect on other examples of this human desire for individual dignity. The oppressors prevailed in Tienanmen Square. Perhaps as we think about what has happened in Egypt, we can reflect on our part in causing the frustrations that made a proud people rise up. It is as simple but as confounding as the ages-old human desire for dignity.