The Obama administration, led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has been telling us for days that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak shouldn't be forced to resign right now. Why? Because according to the Egyptian constitution, elections would have to be held within 60 days, and that's too soon for free and fair elections to be organized. In other words, perhaps without realizing it, the administration is echoing Egyptian Vice-President Omar Suleiman's comments that his fellow citizens are not yet ready for democracy.
The administration's new-found respect for the rule of law in Egypt would sound more sincere if it had earlier protested against police torture of dissidents and other human rights abuses that I doubt are permitted by the nation's constitution. I wonder if Obama, Clinton, their immediate circle have even read the Egyptian constitution. But other scholars have, and they have also pointed out the illegitimacy of a constitution that was written by a dictatorship in its own interests. One of the most interesting commentaries on the constitutional issues was published recently in Foreign Affairs by Nathan Brown, a professor of political science at George Washington University. Brown agrees that the constitution says what Clinton et al. say it says, but he goes much further in laying out the options:
Update: A paragraph from a New York Times story today by David Kirkpatrick, reporting that the pro-democracy movement is gaining strength as labor unions go out on strike: As reports filtered in of strikes and unrest spreading to other parts of the city and the country, the government seemed to dig in deeper. Mr. Mubarak’s handpicked successor, Vice President Omar Suleiman, warned Tuesday that the only alternative to constitutional talks was a “coup” and added: “We don’t want to deal with Egyptian society with police tools.” In other words, Suleiman is threatening a bloodbath if the movement does not disband. This is the man that Obama and Clinton want Egyptians to trust to make the transition to democracy? Fortunately, the movement is so strong now that Mubarak and Suleiman will soon be swept aside, and American diplomacy will be left empty-handed.
This so-called stability encompasses millions of Arabs living under criminal regimes and evil tyrannies. In stable Saudi Arabia, the women are regarded as the lowest of the low; in stable Syria, any sign of opposition is repressed; in stable Jordan and Morocco, the apple of the eye of the West and Israel, people are frightened to utter a word of criticism against their kings, even in casual coffee-shop conversations. Please read it all.