One of the lessons that Britain learnt from Suez was that it could not afford to go against the US and thus began the policy of coat-tailing on US policies; unable to be first in to the fray any more, Britain opted to be junior partner and thus next in line with the baggage train, looking for spoils. Fifty-five years later, the US’s rotten policy of Middle East domination is breaking apart, as the people power of Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere hits the streets, on the way towards transforming political life and the social and economic reality for millions of people.
Surely the lesson that must be learned is that people will not indefinitely tolerate brutal and authoritarian regimes. And countries that prop those up in their own interests, whether they are Britain or the US or others, will eventually be defeated. The sooner that Britain severs its umbilical cord with the US the better – not because decades’ long US foreign policy in that region is facing a catastrophic defeat but because our association with and support for US foreign policy has made us loathed and despised in many parts of the world and made our reputation synonymous with thieves and hypocrites. As our prime minister speaks of the need for freedom and democracy in Egypt those words must be based on genuine values and policies not just hollow expediency.
The protests in Egypt and across the Arab world have thrown global politics into flux and have shown the strength of people power. And they have shown that US dominance can be challenged and broken.
Now it is up to us to learn the lessons. We must step up our challenge to the so-called ‘special relationship’, and break the bloody links, whether it be bringing the troops back from Afghanistan, saying no to nuclear weapons, or refusing to back dictatorships. We must press home the advantage that the peoples of Tunisia and Egypt have won and ensure that Britain’s policies are genuinely based on peace and justice.