After watching the North Africa and the Middle East explode for the last week, I think it’s time to welcome those countries to the free world. Here’s why – what we are facing right now isn’t freedom of speech – it’s anarchy. Anarchy is chaos where there aren’t any consequences for your actions. Freedom has consequences.
If you would like to protest outside of an embassy, feel free. I say protest because protests have rules and, as long as the protest doesn’t take a violent turn, feel free to chant and scream as much as you want. That’s freedom. But when your protest involves firing automatic weapons and Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) at our embassies, it is no longer a protest. They killed an ambassador which is an act of war, and war has consequences. As Marines continue to deploy to Yemen, Sudan, Beirut, and to every other embassy that needs support, do the protestors assume that the Marines are going to land armed with Nerf weapons and whiffle ball bats? They are trained, probably amped up, armed, always permitted to defend themselves, and are very accurate with a rifle. There are consequences when you cross the line.
The Middle East is a lot like the younger brother trying to hang out with his older brother’s pack of friends. The friends put up with the little brother’s antics for a while, but at some point they get annoyed, lose their patience, and put the younger brother in his place. I think it would be good for the protestors in Libya and Egypt to realize that they are no longer ruled by dictators. They have governments that they chose. If the violence escalates and our military is forced to respond, the mission won’t be nation building – it will be to punish those who attacked America’s interests. There are consequences for your actions.
Hillary Clinton gave a great talk about the protests while on a trip to Morocco last week where she explained to the world that America would not silence the voices of our citizens. She explained that there is a difference between letting Americans talk freely and supporting everything that they say. The last I heard was that the person who made the video causing the protests was in hiding out of fear for his safety. Good. He did something dumb and is paying the consequences. That’s how freedom works, say anything you want, but if you cross the line, there are consequences. This sounds like common sense to me.
This principle is not just a standard for the rest of the world; it is one that we hold here too. Look at last year’s Occupy movement. The protesters have the right to protest and assemble. Good for them for exercising their rights. They were pissed and wanted to chant, so they went for it. But look at what happened when one of the protestors threw a rock or tried to assault a police officer. When they crossed that line and went from freedom to anarchy, they took tear gas and pepper spray in the face. There are consequences for your actions.
I’m saying that it is time the Middle East learned that freedom comes with responsibility and if they want to sit at the table with the grown ups, they need to learn to act in a way that commands respect. They can protest whenever they want. They overthrew their government to get that freedom, but, when they cross the line, there are consequences.