Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Code Words

I've read quite a bit about Egypt being touted as a model for democracy in the Middle East according to Bush's state of the union address. This is, after all, a country that has been run by the same guy (Mubarak) for over two decades under the auspices of "emergency rule." It is not surprising though that the American government would consider Egypt a democracy. Democracy is of course, a wonderfully vague word. It's like saying that a country is "nice," it sounds good but in concrete terms it means almost nothing. Venezuela, whose leader is despised by the US government is, by almost any objective standard, more democratic than Egypt. Yet there is no praise for Venezuelan democracy in official Washington. Perhaps Hugo Chavez is all the more reprehensible to American leaders precisely because he has been democratically elected. Same as it was with Allende or Arbenz. Of course all three of these threatened American economic interests whereas Mubarak does not. As long as he keeps the Suez open and the more violent Islamic militants in check, he is just fine by the Americans. Of course that's not surprising, democracy is, in the lexicon of the American government, simply a word of vague praise for those who are enablers for the interests of American commerce. In only the most egregious instances, such as with Saudi Arabia, can the US not use it's code word for acquiescence - democracy.