Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Egypt Game

I have to take a different view than Gail Collins on this:
I’ve actually been a little sad watching the coverage from Egypt, because of the way the United States is reacting. It’s like that Claude Rains moment in Casablanca. We’re shocked! Egypt appears to be a repressive government! Who knew! Then after 30 years of American presidents being B.F.F.s with Mubarak, suddenly Obama is coldly hinting — then insisting — that he start packing. I understand the pragmatic reasons for all this, but it sure does undermine our self-image as champions of democracy.
But isn't this what you want from Obama, especially if you're a foreigner who hopes that America will be good and reasonable and was horribly disappointed by Bush? That Obama will start turning American foreign policy in a more enlightened direction? And really, nobody grades on consistency here. Whatever we were doing wrong in the past, you don't get points for doing it wrong some more. Coldly hinting / insisting that Mubarak get gone is the right direction.

Marc Lynch's post evaluating the Obama administration's handling of Egypt is a few days old now, but it's good and useful. I don't know how to parse diplomat-speak but if Lynch is right things are running in the right direction.


Max Kingsbury said...

It feels like Obama's initial statement was "Mubarak needs to take things seriously, and not rough the protestors up too much" and he only called for real change after it was obvious that it would be happening anyway.

I am surprised by how little I knew about Egypt, though.

Rashad said...

I think in general, I would be supportive of Obama's approach. For example, it worked perfectly for Tunisia. However, in Egypt the US is always going to be involved because of our aid and military relationships. It's just not true that the US opinion doesn't matter.

I think what was needed was a firmer statement earlier, because it convinced Mubarak that he had a shot at staying in power if he could just get rid of those pesky kids. And in some way, the result is the violence last night/this morning.