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The Tea Party Defense

Nonetheless, in both instances — for both the Tea Partiers and the Egyptian protesters — there is a rush to smear and discredit legitimate democratic opposition based upon the actions of those who do not really speak for and to the opposition.

American conservatives, who have been smeared too often themselves, should not sanction the smearing of others, especially our democratic allies overseas. ~John Guardiano

This is one of the more creative arguments in support of the Egyptian protesters, but it doesn’t really hold up.

For one thing, the Egyptian protesters are not “our democratic allies overseas.” If Americans wish to sympathize with Egyptian protesters and want to petition the government to lend them support, that is their prerogative, but it simply isn’t true that these people are “our democratic allies overseas.” As understandable and legitimate as their grievances are, the Egyptian protesters are very actively urging the dismantling of a regime that is formally allied to the United States government. That makes them something other than “our allies.” Even if we all agree that the vast majority of the protesters who have shown up in Tahrir Square are well-intentioned secular democrats, that makes them democratic, but it doesn’t make them our allies. Understandably, the Egyptian public is not well-disposed towards U.S. foreign policy in the region, and to the extent that a future democratic Egypt actually represented the views of most Egyptians in its foreign policy it would be one that is largely independent of the U.S. or formally non-aligned. Egyptians would be perfectly within their rights to do that, and it might be best for their interests if they did, but “our allies” are exactly what they would not be.

More to the point, Guardiano objects to “smearing” the protesters on account of the statements or actions of a few unrepresentative individuals. Fair enough. By the same token, Guardiano and other sympathizers should stop promoting the desirability of Egyptian democracy based on the politics of an unrepresentative, self-selecting sample of protesters in some of Egypt’s larger cities. It could be that the politics of the “Republic of Tahrir” happen to be the politics of a broad cross-section of Egyptians, but I don’t know that and neither does Guardiano. If we should avoid “smearing” an entire group because we should not judge them based on the actions of a few, we shouldn’t run to the opposite extreme and claim that the protesters are representative of what Egyptian democracy would mean.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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