Cameron in Egypt – the statesman emerges
It is usually the prerogative of the President of the United States, as the democratically-elected leader of the free world, to be the first to visit a nation emerging from oppression through revolution towards liberty. Failing that, one might expect the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, unelected and accountable to no-one, to strut her stuff and pontificate hypocritically about the importance of democracy and human rights.
But yesterday David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, stole the show and became the first world leader to visit Egypt and nudge the revolution towards democracy and civilian rule. The Spectator termed it the Prime Minister’s ‘Garibaldi moment’, noting that the Italian military leader is one of his great heroes, and that he admires Garibaldi’s ‘romantic nationalism'.
While His Grace prefers muscular patriotism, the Prime Minister is to be credited with putting his foreign policy where his Munich speech was, for he pointedly snubbed the Muslim Brotherhood, saying he wanted young people to see there was an alternative to ‘extreme Islamist opposition’. Which is just as well, considering the Brotherhood’s new-found messiah Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi yesterday called for the immediate assassination of Colonel Gaddafi.
Fatwa foreign policy doesn’t augur well for an Egypt under the aegis of the Brotherhood.
Mr Cameron’s leadership in the Middle East is that of the statesman, not the salesman; it is born of democratic conviction, not superficial sophistry. So let us today thank God that someone is answering the prayers of President Obama, ‘...that violence in Egypt will end, and the rights and aspirations of the Egyptian people will be realised’.
Because Baroness Ashton isn’t listening to the still small voice.
But she probably wouldn’t notice the hurricane either.
We must pray for the rulers and people of Egypt, and of Bahrain, and of Libya. And hope that David Cameron’s new-found ethical foreign policy shines a little light into the region’s troubled darkness and despair.
It’s just a great pity - a truly (and literally) great shame - that he has allowed his righteous mission to be muddled with mutterings of murky arms sales. There’s no point planning a coup de théâtre if you’re going to allow your climactic moment of soliloquy to be upstaged by spear carriers: it is a poor director who allows the bit-part players to steal the spotlight from the protagonist.
For all the talk of a much-strengthened and more-focused backroom team at No10 of political movers and strategic shakers, where is the stage manager? Where is the mise-en-scène? Where is the intuitive communication? Where is the conceptual coherence?
Sell arms, if you have to, on the back of promises not to repress a population.
But remember that such promises are regularly broken with impunity: when you sell bombs and bullets to Middle East dictators, Arab autocrats and military juntas, they have a habit of being used to snuff out the lives of those who yearn for democracy and dream of liberty. And so the hopes of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religion and freedom of association are sacrificed on the altar of national trade interests. If the price of job creation back home is a few martyrs to shari’a and executions under Islamic blasphemy laws, it seems to be a price worth paying.
Michael Burleigh in the Mail quotes Edmund Burke, who warned that ‘very plausible schemes, with very pleasing commencements, have often shameful and lamentable consequences’.
He who lives by the sword, and all that.
Blessed are the peacemakers, certainly.
But it is more blessed to give democracy than to receive defence procurement contracts.
And even more blessed to have the nous not to permit the one to be conflated or confused with the other.