We will be thinking a great deal about Egypt today–where the Mubarak regime is under attack from people in the streets-and our question will be: What should a great and good nation like the United States do in a situation like this?
It’s a question that is difficult to answer, but I’d feel better if our foreign policy were in the hands of a less naïve administration. Vice President Joe Biden has said that Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt for 29 years, is not a dictator and doesn’t deserve to fall, a remark that is “unlikely to be well-received by regime opponents.”
The Wall Street Journal points out that “in recent days, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has occupied both sides of this debate.” You can see why she might be torn: Our failure to bolster the Shah of Irah, another American ally who presided over a harsh regime, had disastrous consequences. Still, even if you are hoping that Mubarak won’t topple, all but the most dogmatic isolationist will have to admit that the U.S. has done far less than it should have to promote a civil society in Egypt:
Add the fact that in almost every instance, including Egypt, the method of political “control” is still crude, physical brutality, even as the news of these abuses now spreads instantly among the population via new information technologies. Assuming that these dictators can stay afloat indefinitely across waves of information technology is a foreign policy of perilous hope.
President George Bush did make some attempt to curtail Mubarak’s excesses:
We recall that in 2005 President Bush and his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attempted to reach out to civil-society factions in Egypt but were opposed by State Department realists and blamed for democratic naivete after Hamas won an election in the Gaza Strip. U.S. Ambassador to Cairo at the time, Frank Ricciardone, was a particular admirer of Mr. Mubarak and downplayed U.S. support for democracy in Egypt. It’s especially amusing to see Egyptian politician Mohammed ElBaradei surface, criticizing the U.S. for supporting Arab dictators. He was part of the U.N. establishment that criticized Mr. Bush for opposing dictators.
As I said, a difficult situation for American foreign policy. I think it’s fair to say that Steve McCann, who describes himself as a veteran of international business, would feel better if he knew we had a steady hand at the tiller. He does not think Obama has that hand:
One of the primary narratives of the Democrats and the media during the entire tenure of the George W. Bush’s term was that the United States was held in historically low regard throughout the rest of the world. This became, after “Bush lied,” the second-most frequently repeated talking point. Whether there was any basis for this claim was immaterial; it was a handy cudgel for defeating and humiliating the president.
For the past twenty-five-plus years, I have been involved in the international marketplace, having dealt in countries as varied as the United Kingdom, China, and Ghana. Never in that period of time, from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama, have I found it more difficult to defend the polices of the United States and listen to more overt criticism of any sitting president than I do today….
If the United States collapses under its own weight, the world will be thrown into chaos, and many in the international marketplace recognize that very real possibility.
Thus, in my many conversations with those overseas, the subject matter turns quickly to Barack Obama. The most frequent adjectives used to describe our current president are “incompetent,” “amateurish,” “narcissistic,” “inexperienced,” and “haughty.” This is often followed by a confession that accusers too were impressed with Obama during his campaign and fell for his smooth delivery, rhetoric, and appearance.
We’d have more cause to hope if the administration had done the right thing when protestors took to the street against the hateful Iranian regime. When pressed, the president made tepid, belated murmurings of support for the protesters. If that is all he could muster for an enemy regime, I don’t have high hopes for this situation where the strong man is our ally (even the Obamaphilic Time magazine finds the administration’s response so far “bizarre.”) Let us hope for the best for the people of Egypt–and let us hope that the United States finds her way to the right response.