Democracy, said Winston Churchill, is the worst form of government... except for all the others.
Western leaders might bear this in mind when grasping the greasy pole of ‘stability’ of dictatorships.
So with Egypt. What Mubarak and his backers in the US, Israel and other imperialist states always feared most was democracy.
How entertaining to watch Western leaders squirm and spew out last night’s curry over safeguarding their interests in the Middle East.
The US could have pulled the plug on Egypt’s tyranny – which it has reportedly funded to the tune of $3bn a year – at any time. But Western powers have long regarded democratisation of the Arab world as a threat to their control of the region and its oil resources.
Tony Blair, still hauling in money for old rope as the West’s Middle East envoy, blurted out that the Egyptian president had been ‘immensely courageous and a force for good’. This of a man who has jailed and tortured tens of thousands of political prisoners.
Change in Egypt had to be ‘stable and ordered’, or Egyptians could ‘end up frankly with the wrong idea’.
Remember, Blair was our prime minister who joined Bush in forcing a ‘regime change’ in Iraq when Saddam Hussein refused to play ball over oil.
The history of the Middle East is littered with Western attempts to prop up tyrants: King Faroukh, the Shah of Persia, various sheikhs in tinpot dynasties of states around the autocratic Saudi Arabia.
Egypt saw the last attempt at British gunboat diplomacy when we waged war, with France and Israel, on Egypt over Nasser’s nationalisation of the Suez Canal.
What the Western leaders now fear most about a post-Mubarak democratic Egypt is control over its own policies, especially in regard to oil, access to the Suez Canal and relations with Israel.
One of the conditions of collaborationist support by Mubarak was for him to turn a blind eye to Israel extending its colonisation of Arab land.
The upheaval now spreading across the Arab world is at heart a desire for self-determination, a demand for the people to run their own affairs, free of foreign-backed tyrannies.