As the news cycle moves on to President Obama's feckless budget (next week's posting), a quick reprise of the events in Egypt is in order.
- First, I assume that the Army will maintain order until elections are held in the Fall, that the Muslim Brotherhood will be one of several political blocks, that we will continue to buy the Army's support, and that the new government will reflect the country's dependence on Western tourism. Best case, most likely IMHO. The next daunting task - turning political energy into economic energy.
- The Egyptian people deserve a great deal of credit for remaining purposefully nonviolent despite reasonable gripes and a spate of provocation. Wael Ghonim, Google's chief of marketing for North Africa and the Middle East, will probably get a Nobel Peace Prize for his use of Facebook to organize protesters. One hopes that the next couple of years are not filled with a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for retribution against the supporters of the Mubarak regime.
- President Obama deserves credit for the voice which he eventually found ("decisions are up to the Egyptian people; we support representative government and free expression") after false starts by Hillary Clinton ("regime stable"), Robert Gibbs ("transition must start now"), and Joe Biden ("no dictator"). Obama probably got some courage from perfect pitch editorials by Charles Krautheimer and Bill Kristol which far outshone Glenn Beck's rants about a new caliphate aligned with the objectives of the political Left. Most perplexing was the fact that CIA Director Paneta found it necessary to prematurely announce Mubarek's resignation and to proclaim that the Muslim Brotherhood was a secular institution. Perhaps next time the administration will have a single public voice.
- Fortunately our policy has been consistent since Condi Rice's 2005 Cairo speech (more forceful and four years before Obama's): democracy and personal liberty are universal objectives; friends encourage friends to take preemptive steps in that direction. The policy is bipartisan, with virtually no elected Republicans criticizing Obama for his handling of the Egyptian uprising.
Egypt (and Tunisia) may be just the beginning. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and the Gulf states will not be so enlightened in their dealing with protesters. Iran's democracy movement may replay the protests of 2009, hoping (probably futily) for American support this time. Israel may be faced with its Palestinian citizens. Yemen has an al Queda presence and a long open border with Saudi Arabia. Each country has its own history, factions, and limitations - lights will be on late at night at the State Department, the Central Command, and Langley. Beyond Egypt, our government remains eerily quiet, reflecting a belief that we have lost our influence in the region. Lets ask Allah for some more luck.
This week's video shows our dear leader responding to criticism that he forgot to include fixing Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security in his 2012 budget. Clueless or politically calculating?