Superpower Bypassed by History: The Embarrassments of Empire!

From Egypt to Pakistan, February 2011 will be remembered as a month unusually full of the embarrassments of empire. Americans were enthralled by the spectacle of liberty, in which we felt we should somehow be playing a part. Here were popular movements toward self-government, which might once have looked to the United States as an exemplar, springing up all across North Africa and the Middle East. Why did they not look up to us now? The answer became clearer with every equivocal word of the Obama administration, and every false step it took in trying to manage the crisis. A person suffers embarrassment when something true about himself emerges in spite of reasonable efforts to conceal it. It is the same with nations! Sovereign nations are abstract entities, of course - they cannot have feelings as people do - but there are times when they would blush if they could: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was weakened and finally brought down by non -violent popular actions that started in Cairo and spread to Alexandria, Suez, and many other cities. At first, Mubarak took a dictator's prerogative and named his successor. Soon afterward, he changed his mind and declined to step down. At last, he gave in to the unrelenting demands of the people and pressure from the army.

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