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Posted at 8:55 PM ET, 02/ 9/2011

Is America helpless in Egypt?

By Stephen Stromberg

What influence does America have over events in Egypt? Listening to the Obama administration doesn't make one optimistic.

Vice President Biden spoke with Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman Tuesday, impressing on Suleiman American expectations that the regime must stop harassing journalists and human rights groups, lift its emergency law and abolish restrictions on non-official political activity. But indications are that Egypt's rulers will not acquiesce: The country's foreign minister called Biden's advice "not at all" helpful on PBS's "NewsHour" Wednesday.

So, what now?

During a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, and Jake Sullivan, State Department director of policy planning, explained that the United States "can't dictate outcomes," but that it can speak out "publicly and privately," making clear what American expectations are. The Obama administration, Sullivan said, can press other countries with influence in Egypt to do the same.

But what about America's military aid to Egypt? The United States always reassesses its assistance to other countries to ensure that it's being used "for the right purposes," Sullivan said. And, he added, Egypt's military has so far behaved responsibly. It's not clear just how much leverage the administration thinks American aid gives U.S. officials. But a likely translation is: If this incentive for good behavior is removed, there's a risk the Egyptian military will see little reason not to violently repress the protests driving the country's political crisis.

So, unless the Obama administration is doing something else far behind the scenes, the current strategy seems to be: Explain what we want to Egypt's leaders and to others in the region connected to Egypt, then reexplain. American officials might also be laying down some red lines for the regime and the military that, if crossed, would result in the loss of U.S. aid. That approach could help prevent a Tiananmen Square-style bloodbath. But it's surely not going to satisfy the Egyptians in Tahrir Square who might soon be constructing a new political order in the Arab world's most populous country.

By Stephen Stromberg  | February 9, 2011; 8:55 PM ET
Categories:  Stromberg  | Tags:  Stephen Stromberg  
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Comments

A massive infusion of cash from the US is necessary to stop the Egyptian riots. They need national health-care, hospitals, schools, food-stamps, and cash supplements for the poor. It can and will be sent, but it is needed NOW not later.

Posted by: morristhewise | February 9, 2011 9:14 PM | Report abuse

We thought it was so terrible that Iraq had a dictator, Saddam Hussein, that we attacked the country, even though the Iraqis wanted to keep him. Now we have pro-democracy Egyptians who would welcome even our verbal support against their brutal dictator and we seem to be waffling. Maybe Obama should recruit Dubya back to DC to give Mubarak his "High Noon," warning to hit the road or else. Sterling Greenwood/AspenFreePress

Posted by: AspenFreePress | February 9, 2011 9:31 PM | Report abuse

How hard can this be for cryin out loud. Mr. Mubarak is not going to step down as long as he is worried about the health and well being of his family and himself. Since he has been a friend of sorts of ours. Would it not make sense to invite he and his family here. Provided he does not show up with Egypt's wealth in his luggage. Think about it. He does not have many friends in the middle east because of the US relationship. If he just steps down. Where would assurances for his safety come from? This ain't rocket science. I think the term is Survival. Then again as long as you have raped your peoples and have the loot to prove it. Saudi Arabia will send Limo's and dignitary's to meet your Plane.

Posted by: saintronmcg | February 9, 2011 9:44 PM | Report abuse

obama needs to keep out of Egypt's affairs. He is going to make enemies regardless of which side he chooses. What they do is not any of his business. He doesn't do a very good job as president here. Why does he think he can govern Egypt?

Posted by: vageorge | February 9, 2011 9:46 PM | Report abuse

What a joke. "America is helpless! We can't stop the military aid because that's what keeps the military from massacring its own people!"

America defines hypocrisy. Want to know how to deal with Egypt? Cut the money. Not just to the military, but seize the regime's offshore accounts and wealth. You've done it before to regimes far less nasty than this one and not even with a populace demanding change.


Clinton says if Mubarak steps down that would necessitate an election within 60 days. Really? So why was there no election when Nasser stepped down or when Sadat was assassinated? Remember, Mubarak was Sadat's VP and Sadat was Nasser's.

If it is true the regime brings stability and is the only route for a transition for democracy it has had 50 60 years to implement, than why isn't that true for Iran, Burma, and Zimbabwe which have had far fewer years to establish stability and transition to democracy.

What America represents as evidenced by the government and this pathetic column is hypocrisy and moral cowardice.

As the old American saying goes, "he may be a brutal, murderous, thug, but be is our brutal, murderous, thug."

Posted by: cyberfarer | February 9, 2011 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Non of our Wizards or the street group have any real idea of what should be done by who in Egypt.
Seems to me we should give up our job of world-wide decider.
My opinion is that if the street group destroys the existing structure that what may come to be is a non functional excuse for a Government. Just to have Mubarak leave will only be a symbol, they have to understand that those at many levels are the ones who actually do all the bad things and those same folks may also make a lot of things work.
Look at what happened in Iraq when we fired everybody.
WE and the rest of the world do have a vested interest in the continued operation of Suez.

Posted by: macira | February 9, 2011 10:21 PM | Report abuse

All of this prattle concerning "democracy" is just that. The problem is that Egypt's burgeoning population has exceeded its resources and it does not have the ability to maintain its population.

No regime will be able to maintain itself so long as there are insufficient necessities of life to enable the populace to survive. Inputs from the U.S. are what have stabilized the country until now. Withdrawal of such aid will have catastrophic consequences.

This purportedly "spontaneous" uprising was the product of long-term planning. The logos used were patented in the U.S. in September. Some "protestors" are mercenaries, who are paid the equivalent of $46 per day to participate. As one observer noted, "Some 98.5% of the people are onlookers, who are neither nor involved."

The attempt to create the illusion that support is overwhelming with a consequent bandwagon effect demonstrates the sophisticated orchestration of the event.

Unfortunately, Suleiman would probably not be able to secure his position, and the Muslim Brotherhood would obtain control of the governmental apparatus, then disposing of their secular collaborators as the Bolsheviks disposed of the Mensheviks. The outcome would be a repressive theocratic state and not a "democratic" form, which might obtain on transitory basis until replaced by a theocracy and institution of sharia law.

The ensuing powder keg might be perceived as an existential threat by Israel, which in the throes of uncertainty if attacked, might just unleash its nuclear arsenal and other weapons of mass destruction. The Obama administration in signaling the legitimization of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has provided the genesis for all of the Islamic terrorist organizations extant including Al Qaeda. This initiative might just have opened Pandora's Box by providing for inclusion of a terrorist organization as a proper party. This course might just be a precursor to Armageddon.

Of course with diminishing resources worldwide including food shortages, unrest will increase. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse may indeed ride. Where is ZPG (Zero Population Growth) when you need that organization. The Earth is on the brink of catastrophe because of insufficiency of resources to support populations. Unless some viable remedies are introduced, natural constraints eventually will reduce the population. It wn't be orderly. It won't be "nice."

Posted by: JohnJohnson1 | February 9, 2011 11:11 PM | Report abuse

All of this prattle concerning "democracy" is just that. The problem is that Egypt's burgeoning population has exceeded its resources and it does not have the ability to maintain its population.

No regime will be able to maintain itself so long as there are insufficient necessities of life to enable the populace to survive. Inputs from the U.S. are what have stabilized the country until now. Withdrawal of such aid will have catastrophic consequences.

This purportedly "spontaneous" uprising was the product of long-term planning. The logos used were patented in the U.S. in September. Some "protestors" are mercenaries, who are paid the equivalent of $46 per day to participate. As one observer noted, "Some 98.5% of the people are onlookers, who are neither motivated nor involved."

The attempt to create the illusion that support is overwhelming with a consequent bandwagon effect demonstrates the sophisticated orchestration of the event.

Unfortunately, Suleiman would probably not be able to secure his position, and the Muslim Brotherhood would obtain control of the governmental apparatus, then disposing of their secular collaborators as the Bolsheviks disposed of the Mensheviks. The outcome would be a repressive theocratic state and not a "democratic" form, which might obtain on transitory basis until replaced by a theocracy and institution of sharia law.

The ensuing powder keg might be perceived as an existential threat by Israel, which in the throes of uncertainty if attacked, might just unleash its nuclear arsenal and other weapons of mass destruction. The Obama administration in signaling the legitimization of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has provided the genesis from which all of the Islamic terrorist organizations extant including Al Qaeda, arose. This initiative might just have opened Pandora's Box by providing for inclusion of a terrorist organization as a proper party and a participant in a coalition successor regime. This course might just be a precursor to an Armageddon scenario.

Of course with diminishing resources worldwide including food shortages, unrest will increase. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse may indeed ride. Where is ZPG (Zero Population Growth) when you need that organization. The Earth is on the brink of catastrophe because of insufficiency of resources to support populations. Unless some viable remedies are introduced, natural constraints eventually will reduce the population. It won't be orderly. It won't be "nice."

Posted by: JohnJohnson1 | February 9, 2011 11:21 PM | Report abuse

Tehran 1979 a pro-Western dictator,the Shah,was overthrown by an alliance of reformists and Islamists.After the Shah fall,Islamists smashed the reformists,establishing an anti-Western regime sponsoring anti human rights,democratic values using terror and radicalism worldwide

Obama Middle East policy castigates Bush for being unrealistic regarding the promotion of democracy in Arab world
A: Obama policy outcomes:
*Lebanon takeover by Hisbula terror group sponsored by Iran
*Disappearance of Iranian anti Islamist opposition following the brutal crackdown post election demonstrations
*Erdogan leads Turkey to partnership with Iran and pro Islamist policy
*Palestinian refusal to direct peace negotiations with Israel

Bush support for democratization led not to democracy but to the rise of Hamas Islamic terrorists-a branch of Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza
B:Obama repeats Bush mistake in Egypt,the strategic country in Arab world
Obama calls for inclusion of non-seculars in the new government.
Islamists anti-Western values and democratic government is ideological and not related to any American policy
Obama abandons USA allies,embracing Islamists-harms USA allies standing and strengthen anti-Western Islamists worldwide

Posted by: mordechayariely | February 10, 2011 12:00 AM | Report abuse

"Is America helpless in Egypt?" No, just Obama..

Posted by: wewintheylose1 | February 10, 2011 2:18 AM | Report abuse

All America is accomplishing is helping the "Muslim Brotherhood" sieze control of Egypt. Want to know what they will be like?
1. They gave us Hamas of Gaza
2. They will immediately impose Sharia law
3. They will immediately declare "Jehad" against Israel and the West.

Hamas was created by the "Muslim Brotherhood" of Egypt. Think of all the military weapons Egypt now has deploying that against Israel from the South and Hezbollah deploying the weapons from Syria and Iran from the North.

Do you really think the Egyptians will become democratic? They will be so enamoured with their victory over Mubarak they will sweep the "Muslim Brotherood" into power.

Don't believe it? Remember, Carter helped the Ayatollah come to power in Iran by forcing out the Shah and Adolph Hitler came to power through a democratic vote!

Wake up America, time is running out on us all! Do not believe the hype we are receiving the News Media and especially not the hype by the Obama Administration who is trying to appease the Muslim terriorists. Stand by Israel and be ready for the Lord to return!

Posted by: amos3_3 | February 10, 2011 2:40 AM | Report abuse


Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, and Jake Sullivan, State Department director of policy planning, explained that the United States "can't dictate outcomes," but that it can speak out "publicly and privately," making clear what American expectations are.
- the article


---


Making clear what American "expectations" are, eh? Why should anybody in any other country CARE what American expectations are? We can't even govern our own country, let alone anyone else's.


Posted by: bloggersvilleusa | February 10, 2011 3:21 AM | Report abuse

amos3_3 wrote: "Stand by Israel and be ready for the Lord to return!"

Just like Ahmadinejad. But a Christian Ahmadinejad.

If we listen to end-timers like amos3_3 or Ahmadinejad, we will all die. That's what they want, what they lust for.

Posted by: Garak | February 10, 2011 8:07 AM | Report abuse

We are eyeless in Gaza and in Egypt, and hapless nearly everywhere else.

Posted by: sailhardy | February 10, 2011 8:09 AM | Report abuse

Never mind the military aid. It was given for only one reason, and conditioned on only one thing, serving Israel. That is what they were paid to do, and that is what they are doing--what Israel wants.

Posted by: MarkThomason | February 10, 2011 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.-That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers of the governed, -That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect the Safety and Happiness.”

Posted by: Alethean | February 10, 2011 8:55 AM | Report abuse


The United States Of America is no longer a world leader we went from a world heavyweight much admired to a flyweight sneered at. Egypt our friend will be left to fall to extremist and we will be made weaker for it. Foreign policy in washington, is no foreign policy, because our foreign policy is foreign aid countless billions policy . We are no longer the rich country so other countries no longer like us. America falling apart crumbling before us, rife with citizen discontent. Yet washingtons answer to the egypt crisis will be of course billions of our money to help the egyptian goverment.
Remember when our goverment put it citizens first? yes it was once true.

Posted by: davidtrottier2002 | February 10, 2011 9:13 AM | Report abuse

At least we as not as helpless as we would have been under either President Carter the originator of the Moralistic Foreign Policy which superseded national interest with moral objections, or as constrained as we would have been under President Bush whose freedom of movement was restricted by the perception that he viewed everything from the unique American perspective and judged events based mainly on how it supported or detracted from our security alone. Both men had their own times to deal with and both did what they could but what we needed was a President Obama and a Cairo Speech, a commitment to the freedom and future of the people of the Middle East divorced from our national interest. An invitation and respectful advice over the heads of their Autocratic leaders and to the people of the Middle East inviting them forward into the brotherhood of responsible nations and pledging the backing and friendship of the United States in their support. Good job Mr. President.

Posted by: almorganiv | February 10, 2011 9:14 AM | Report abuse

"But what about America's military aid to Egypt? The United States always reassesses its assistance to other countries to ensure that it's being used "for the right purposes,"

----------------------------------

But what about America's military aid to Israel?

But what about America's military aid to Pakistan?

Are these being used for "the right purposes", or do we care?

Posted by: areyousaying | February 10, 2011 9:18 AM | Report abuse

This is all OBE. Saudi Arabia has already warned the POTUS that if the U.S. cuts off its aid, Saudi Arabia will step in and provide for Egypt.

Posted by: pwkickice | February 10, 2011 9:18 AM | Report abuse

This is all OBE. Saudi Arabia has already warned the POTUS that if the U.S. cuts off its aid, Saudi Arabia will step in and provide for Egypt.

Posted by: pwkickice | February 10, 2011 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Americans like democracy only when it is convenient for them and Israel.

Posted by: areyousaying | February 10, 2011 9:22 AM | Report abuse

All readers should be aware that the London Daily Telegraph is publishing WikiLeaks documents proving AIPAC's close collaboration with Suleiman (who had a secret channel of communication and control with Israel rep Ackerman, and a direct line to Tel Aviv). The title of this article should be "Has AIPAC/Likud israel lost control of Egypt?" Most emphatically yes,
to America's benefit. The next question is "Have AIPAC/Likud israel lost control of the former United States?" The times they are a'changin.

Posted by: ronin1776 | February 10, 2011 9:23 AM | Report abuse

IN ADDITION TO THE SAUDI KING, WHO ELSE IS OBAMA SAYING, "YES SIR!!!!" TO? CHINA?

Posted by: wheeljc | February 10, 2011 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Geographically, Egypt is about 4 times larger than Oregon, on a square mile basis. Yet 78 million people there live in an area smaller than Washington state. In this way Egypt has a severe over-population problem related to their own natural resources. They are reliant on foreign imports and exports. These business dealings usually have relatively few people directly involved.
The protesters of course now realize that they have to 'hang together or hang separately'. From the West's point of view? The only realistic appeal is for a transition to democracy, less 'good old boy networking'. The US could go more this way too for that matter with regard to just how few US citizens actually benefit from a larger GDP total.

Posted by: deepthroat21 | February 10, 2011 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Yes, it's very frustrating for a once-supporter to see Obama wavering in the wind with his different mouthpieces like Gibbs, Clinton all stating different positions. Forgive them for running around like chickens without heads after being bombarded all day long by calls from the Saudi royalty, Jordan royalty, AIPAC's guys, Netanyahu. To most Americans, the choice is crystal clear and if Obama can't rise up to the occasion this time, he's doomed. He might believe that his re-election depends on the support of these despots, but history will definitely not be kind to him. The US will also pay a big price for his cowardice.

Posted by: KT11 | February 10, 2011 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Is America helpless in Egypt?

America is helpless everywhere because the moron, G. Dubya Bush, saddled this country with two wars costing the country a trillion dollars apiece and ruining the economy while he was at it.

Want to flush America down the toilet -- elect a Repug.

Posted by: googleguy | February 10, 2011 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Last I knew, our influence in Egypt was straight forward. In exchange for Mubarak maintaing a military dictatorship, we would give him 1.2 billion a year. In exchange, he would not attack Israel, and claim he could talk to those who want to eliminate Israel. None of this talks to influence, unless Egypt cannot get money, from China, or even Russia. With that said, China or Russia probably could care less, about what happens to Israel, so again, our influence is our checkbook. Now that we are broke, where does this money come from? Let me guess, Ben, his printing press, and his helicopter.

Posted by: dangreen3 | February 10, 2011 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Is it just possible that the US is not the wisest nation in history and that maybe Egypt and the rest of the world too would be better of without our “aid”?

Posted by: TomPowell | February 10, 2011 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Why is the US supposed to be in control, in any way, of what is happening in Egypt? What's wrong with letting the Egyptian people create their own country and their own future?

Posted by: karlmarx2 | February 10, 2011 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Why would anybody expect that the United States can or should have significant influence on events in Egypt? Do we expect Egyptians to influence our elections? We are having a very difficult time trying to run our country well enough to keep our economy working. Those who think we have some possibility of running the whole world really need to try to wake up and at least try to take some look at the reality.

Posted by: dnjake | February 10, 2011 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Why would anybody expect that the United States can or should have significant influence on events in Egypt? Do we expect Egyptians to influence our elections? We are having a very difficult time trying to run our country well enough to keep our economy working. Those who think we have some possibility of running the whole world really need to try to wake up and at least try to take some look at the reality.

Posted by: dnjake | February 10, 2011 1:06 PM | Report abuse

America hasn't given a crap about the freedom of the Egyptian people for the last three decades, if you think that is going to change now, you are a fool.

Posted by: thomasmc1957 | February 10, 2011 4:48 PM | Report abuse

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