THE United States has no cause for false pride and we have every reason for humility. Which senior representative of the US said that? It sounds rather like former President Jimmie Carter in his heyday, doesn't it? But the words were spoken only this week by someone still very much in office. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, no less.
She used them in Cairo on Monday in a speech whose content was pretty much a contradiction of any claim of humility.
In Egypt and, later in Saudi Arabia, Dr Rice declared that the United States is supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.
We have heard this kind of talk before, most notably from President Bush when he told the Iranian people that the United States stood behind them in their fight for democracy. But neither Mr Bush nor Dr Rice ever spells out what their rhetoric means. In the case of Iran, if next weekend's election run-off produces a result that suggests there has been ballot-rigging of one kind or another, will Mr Bush order US armed forces into Teheran to effect a regime change? Of course not. If Egypt fails to follow through with the limited electoral reforms it has so far announced, will Washington cut the huge subsidies it pays to Cairo to balance those it gives to Israel? Of course not. If Saudi Arabia ignores Dr Rice's heavy hints that women should have a little more say in how their country is run, will the US stop buying Saudi oil? You have to be joking. Why, therefore, do President Bush and Secretary Rice insist on making speeches that raise false hopes among ordinary citizens of countries in the Middle East and irritate their rulers who believe, with some justification, that if they were to follow the US's admonitions the stability of the area would be at serious risk? We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people said Dr Rice. But if she really meant that it would imply a fundamental change in the US's relations with virtually all the states of the Middle East.
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