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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Profiles in courage and cowardice

Every day that President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton fail or refuse to back the demand of Egypt's pro-democracy movement that Hosni Mubarak resign from office immediately, they are emboldening the regime and endangering the lives of the courageous demonstrators. No one knows how this is all going to end, but trusting a dictatorship to build democracy is like trusting the fox to do community organizing amongst the hens.

The reasons for their waffling are many, but it apparently all boils down to concerns over "stability"--a euphemism for fears that Egyptians will decide themselves who their leaders are going to be rather than being content with yet another dictatorial or authoritarian regime sympathetic to U.S. and Israeli interests. I would like to think that Barack Obama knows better in his heart, so what is his abject cowardice in the face of these historical events based on? Fear of what Sarah Palin might say if the Muslim Brotherhood gets to play a role in the new government? Fear that he might lose his bid for re-election if the right-wing could claim that he "lost" Egypt?

Whatever the case, if the government cracks down on the movement, which they will indeed do if it falters for lack of international support, Obama and Clinton will have blood on their hands. Come to think of it, they already do, since until the pro-democracy movement began they were content to simply continue decades of U.S. support for the Mubarak regime.

PS--Oh, believe it or not, presidents can resign. Remember Richard Nixon?

Afterthoughts: If the Obama administration is concerned about how its stance on the Egyptian revolution will play out in domestic politics, then why not play it smart? The right-wing is very vulnerable right now to charges that it prefers dictatorship to democracy--why not stick them with that? But of course that would not be civil nor bipartisan...

Update: If the Obama administration (and the Egyptian government) were hoping that the protests would run out of steam, no such luck. Today's demonstrations in Tahrir Square were reportedly the largest yet in the two week long movement.

1 comment:

Joanna Bryson said...

The Iranian revolution was originally a plurality of the left, intelligentsia & the religious, but the religious quickly coopted it. I certainly hope and in fact totally expect that the Egyptian youth movement is fully aware of that and is working to protect themselves from such an outcome. But while I sympathise with your sentiment I don't think it is ridiculous to be worried about a similar outcome.

Also, note that we are already in a substantially different situation in that there was *any* public support in advance of the successful transition of power. I am very sorry they pulled back from the stronger position they took initially, but there is another factor.

One of the strongest things that the Egyptian regime can do to undermine the movement is to say it is about foreign intervention. So actually one of the best ways Obama can undermine the current regime might be to side with them! Did you see this tweet: @Ghonim Wael Ghonim
Sorry I don't speak with foreign media about the situation in #Egypt #Jan25
. Why? To not be associated with other countries.