An obscure program that trained election monitors initiated by President George W. Bush is being touted as one of the sparks that ignited that Egyptian uprising that eventually toppled President Hosni Mubarak.
According to the Boston Globe:
“The program, which provided millions in direct funding to prodemocracy groups, helped dispatch 13,000 volunteers to observe Egypt’s parliamentary elections in December. Thousands of those monitors, angered by what they said was blatant election rigging, joined the protests. Some became outspoken leaders; others used the networking and communication skills they learned to help coordinate 18 days of rallies.”
President Bush was attacked by his opponents, many of whom are now celebrating the overthrow of Mubarak, for wanting to export freedom to third world countries. Whether that freedom was brought to Iraq and Afghanistan under the guns of the U.S. military or by more subtle methods such as the election observer program in Egypt, the Bush freedom doctrine was slammed as a kind of cultural imperialism, an attempt to recreate American political culture in other countries.
President Bush and his allies countered that freedom is a universal aspiration and that it smacked of racism to suggest that, say, someone living in the Arab world did not want to be free just because he or she is an Arab and a Muslim.
While it is stipulated that events in Egypt could still go south into chaos or a Muslim Brotherhood run theocracy, it seems the overthrow of Mubarak and the prospects for the second democracy in the Arab world (the first being in Iraq, thanks to Bush’s liberation of that country) has more to do with President Barack Obama’s predecessor than the President himself.
In fact, Obama had cut funding to the sorts of programs that seem to have led to the overthrow of Mubarak that he is now touting as a new day in history.
This development, provided Egypt does become something resembling a democracy, will further help to burnish the legacy of George W. Bush. Just as President Ronald Reagan liberated tens of millions of people in Eastern Europe by winning the Cold War, Bush will be seen to have liberated tens of millions of Muslims from home grown tyrannies and to help bring Muslim countries, ever so tentatively, into the 21st century.
President Bush left office with very low approval ratings. Currently, his approval ratings are just slightly above those of President Obama. As history provides a better perspective on Bush’s presidency, he may yet ascend to the level of a world historic figure whose life and career were of benefit to the world.
Source: Bush program helped lay the groundwork in Egypt, Farah Stockman, Boston Globe, February 13th, 2011