“Mubarak Walks; Bulls Run” is the headline for CBS Markets.
That’s my kind of headline.
There will be many who try to portray this as a victory for the Obama administration. It isn’t. It was the Egyptian army that made the decision that Mubarak had to go (and it is the prestige of the army that keeps hope alive that this revolution won’t be a repeat of Iran in 1979).
Nevertheless it’s a new day in Egypt, and, even though American power and prestige have been diminished enormously by the ineptitude of our initial response, it’s a second chance for the administration. Let’s cross our fingers. The American Enterprise Institute’s Michael Rubin has good observations on the administration and advice going forward:
Obama tried to straddle the fence during the uprising; neutrality is not an option now. Obama should welcome accountability and enunciate a clear timeline for the transition. For example, he should say that only new elections in September 2011 will give Egypt a legitimate government. The army has vested economic interests in Egypt, and may seek to keep control to keep their pocketbooks secure. Remember, Egypt has not fought a war since 1973, and so most Egyptians know their generals not as warriors, but rather as businessmen. There will be a temptation among some to ask why right the United States has to suggest anything. But if Obama, in a fit of moral equivalency, decides he cannot speak to what would be legitimate in Egypt, then he will concede the role to Syria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.
The State Department should avoid the temptation to bless a broad-based transitional government. Not only would this be unwieldy and lead to infighting over who is included and excluded and who has what role, but it could open Egypt more easily to a Kerensky moment….
President Obama should also consider the bigger picture. We are in a proxy war with Iran for influence, whether we like it or not. Just as Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad are declaring the Egyptian uprising their own, why not have President Obama call on the Iranian people to rise up and follow the Egyptian example for true accountability and democracy?
Okay, that last is not going to happen, unless President Obama has finally given up his forlorn hope that Iran will come to the negotiating table. But it’s a beautiful dream, no?