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Posted at 11:01 AM ET, 01/30/2011

On Egypt, Obama offers 'too little, too late'

By Jennifer Rubin

Last week was, in an administration with plenty of them, a low point in foreign policy execution for the Obama team. On Thursday, Vice President Biden proclaimed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to be a friend of the United States and rejected the suggestions that Mubarak should step down or was a dictator. On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sounded a little tougher, telling Mubarak not to use violence against his country's protestors and to restore Internet communications that he had cut off. But, alas, "democracy" did not pass her lips. (The closest she came: "As President Obama said yesterday, reform is absolutely critical to the well-being of Egypt.") Throughout the day, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley tweeted missives, such as, "We hope they choose a path of dialogue and reform."

By late in the day, it was safe to say no one quite understood what the Obama administration's position was. So the president sallied forth with yet another statement. He assured us that he was monitoring the situation and called "upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters."

But after talking about "reform" and working with the Egyptian government, Obama then played spokesman for Mubarak, offering to improve upon the Egyptian leader's statement earlier in the day. (The Mubarak statement was widely panned by democracy activists and Middle East experts, such as Khairi Abaza of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who e-mailed me that "Mubarak's address didn't offer anything new.") In Obama's version, Mubarak "pledged a better democracy and greater economic opportunity." A "better" democracy? Is there one at all in Egypt? Obama told us that he had spoken to Mubarak. In perfectly obtuse language, Obama declared, "I told him he has a responsibility to give meaning to those words, to take concrete steps and actions that deliver on that promise." The promise of a "better democracy," I guess.

His formulation still indicated that we are joined at the hip with Mubarak. He closed with this: "Surely there will be difficult days to come. But the United States will continue to stand up for the rights of the Egyptian people and work with their government in pursuit of a future that is more just, more free, and more hopeful." While the protestors in the street are screaming for Mubarak to abdicate, Obama's spiel, in the words of a former Middle East negotiator, was "too little, too late."

The same could be said of Mubarak, who fired his prime minister and finally appointed a vice president, but has done nothing to assuage the protestors. They want him gone.

The New York Times reported yesterday:

In the most striking instance, members of the army joined with a crowd of thousands of protesters in a pitched battle against Egyptian security police officers defending the Interior Ministry on Saturday afternoon.

So the army is siding with the protestors, and Obama still won't definitively break with Mubarak.

There are no "down with America" chants in Cairo or burnings of the American flag. But the incompetent Obama diplomacy, forever behind the curve, risks leaving the U.S. at odds with a new, emerging government. Abaza says: "Continuation of the status quo or another autocracy equals repression, bad governance, lack of hope and prospect, radicalization and, finally, anger against the West if it supports this type of governance."

Meanwhile, a remarkably diverse group of foreign policy gurus has proposed another approach. The Working Group on Egypt , which includes Michele Dunne, Robert Kagan, Elliott Abrams and Ellen Bork as well Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch and Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress, has put out a statement with some smart advice for Obama to pursue the following goals:

a call for free and fair elections for president and for parliament to be held as soon as possible.

amend the Egyptian Constitution to allow opposition candidates to register to run for the presidency.

immediately lift the state of emergency, release political prisoners, and allow for freedom of media and assembly

allow domestic election monitors to operate throughout the country, without fear of arrest or violence.

immediately invite international monitors to enter the country and monitor the process leading to elections, reporting on the government's compliance with these measures to the international community

publicly declare that Mr. Mubarak will agree not to run for re-election.

Most important, the experts urge the Obama administration to "suspend all economic and military assistance to Egypt until the government accepts and implements these measures."

I would add one more suggestion: find a new foreign policy team; Obama's current one is egregiously inept.

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 30, 2011; 11:01 AM ET
Categories:  foreign policy  
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Comments

Egypt is Obama's Katrina/Waco/Iran-Contra/Hostage Crises/Watergate. This will forever be remembered as his greatest failing.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | January 30, 2011 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Most important, the experts urge the Obama administration to "suspend all economic and military assistance to Egypt until the government accepts and implements these measures."

I would add one more suggestion: find a new foreign policy team; Obama's current one is egregiously inept"


Nice group of former Bush adminstartion staffers, it's shame they didn't pursue those policies themselves during the 8 years they were in office.

Funny how everybody gets so much smarter AFTER they leave government service!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 30, 2011 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Hey where are Dick and Liz Cheney on this? I'll bet they're meeting with staff like mad, trying to come up with a way to reposition themselves as advocates of freedom and democracy all over the world.

There is much rending of garments in the conservative world right now over how to pretend to support both Israel and freedom in Egypt, without getting caught in quotes that will look foolish and naive in case Egypt goes to fundamentalist hell.

The solution is of course to simply blame Obama for everything because the Egyptian people had no idea that Mubarak was a dictator until they saw him standing next to Obama!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 30, 2011 11:35 AM | Report abuse


Ultimately what is at stake is the citizen’s of the mid east ability to garner some economic prosperity and mobility and quash the oppressive divide that has worked to date to engender US and entrenched mid east’s interests. But from the US’s point of view what is really at stake is their ability to retain US hegemony and the sale of a McDonald’s sponsored cheese burger at some future date. How the US reacts to EGYPT will be unconditionally tempered by this fact.

http://scallywagandvagabond.com/2011/01/us-hegemony-and-the-crises-called-egypt/

Posted by: zoezoe123 | January 30, 2011 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Barack Hussein Obama seems to have a propensity for tossing mentors like Rev. Wright, old friends like Van Jones, and allies like Israel, Britain, and now Egypt under the bus the moment they are perceived to be more of a political or diplomatic disadvantage than a benefit. In Obama's rush to appear the great human rights crusader and savior of humanity by distancing himself from Hosni Mubarak, Obama seems to have gone a little too far a little too fast, and most moderate Arab leaders are very unhappy about it. They know that with Obama they could easily be dumped next, while they also know that Mubarak could always be relied on in a pinch.
The question Obama is probably now asking himself is whether Mubarak will fall, and if not, how badly will Obama's rash abandonment of Mubarak affect America's relationship with Egypt and it's standing in the Middle East.
Obama must also be worrying that because of his naive, incompetent, and stupid meddling, he may have brought a fundamentalist, Jihad oriented, anti American and anti Israel Islamic government to power in Egypt, much like his predecessor Jimmy Carter did when he diplomatically knifed the Shah of Iran in the back a few decades ago.
I don't know about the hope part, but Obama has certainly brought about a change for the worst in Egypt.

Posted by: Beniyyar | January 30, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse

I think I shall wait for Ms. Rubin to absorb more analysis and what has been said this morning while she was writing this.

Guess she missed Bumiller's report in the NYT as to how most of Egypt's military leadership had to interrupt their week-long meeting at the Pentagon on Friday...far more important than jumping to the conclusion "So the army is siding with the protestors" Yeah, that explains today's death toll and the F-16s flying low over Cairo...

Posted by: K2K2 | January 30, 2011 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Mubarak is doomed, but that doesn't mean we should pile on him like we did to the Shah. That craven betrayal of an ally didn't gain us any goodwill with his successors. We should take a fairly modest, behind-the scenes role that encourages a peaceful transition. While we should know that pro-democracy forces would win elections before we call for a plebiscitary democracy, we need to make our support for the Egyptian people clear, as we failed to do recently in Iran.

The best outcome would be a military replacement of Mubarak and a gradual development of democratic institutions, such as legal political parties and free political speech. The worst outcome would be an anti-American theocracy imposed by the Muslim Brotherhood. Stability with orderly change should be our objective. We must not try to run the place (we can't and shouldn't), but we should use whatever limited influence we have to promote a moderate middle course that will thwart the Islamic Brotherhood.

Posted by: eoniii | January 30, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

beniy wrote:

"Obama must also be worrying that because of his naive, incompetent, and stupid meddling, he may have brought a fundamentalist, Jihad oriented, anti American and anti Israel Islamic government to power in Egypt, much like his predecessor Jimmy Carter did when he diplomatically knifed the Shah of Iran in the back a few decades ago."

I've read your stuff before and though we seldom agree, I've enjoyed the discussions. All the can be said of your above statement is that you can't really be this obtuse.


Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 30, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

eonii wrote:

"Mubarak is doomed, but that doesn't mean we should pile on him like we did to the Shah. That craven betrayal of an ally didn't gain us any goodwill with his successors."

See my post in yesterday's long comments blog. Most of the successors you speak of did not live long enough to worry about our goodwill.

Here's the list

Shapur Bakhtiar - assasinated

Mehdi Bazargan - died of natural causes after resigning over the hostage crisis and retiring from politics

Mohammad-Ali Rajai - assasinated

Mohammad Javad Bahonar - assasinated

Abolhassan Banisadr - defected to Paris to avoid being executed

Sadegh Ghotbzadeh - executed

and so on.

The Shah was a pathetic excuse for a ruler, but there is no doubt about two things. One, the only way he could have stayed in power was to become a Stalin style dictator. Two the people of Iran were not actually Westernized, but had a thin veneer at the top of society. They were swept away by the fundamemntalists, which was not in any way our doing and beyond our ability to prevent absent a dictatorship.

The lesson is there in front of us that we cannot actually change these events, but we will not learn from it.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 30, 2011 1:35 PM | Report abuse

JohnMarshall, I agree we can't control events, but we do have a limited influence that we must use judiciously. We can certainly make things worse, as we have done often. Your Iranian example points out the danger of fairly moderate reformers being swept away (killed) by tightly organized, conspiratorial totalitarians. That has been the path of many revolutions.

Posted by: eoniii | January 30, 2011 3:06 PM | Report abuse

It's very interesting to see the absence of any consensus here, with the Administration obviously winging it badly as it goes along and conservatives all over the place. I think we will simply need a new way of talking about things--the idea of micro-managing these events (it would be nice if the military took power, but not too quickly or too brutally, we should ease Mubarak out but not look like we're abandoning him, we should support democracy but if the Muslim Brotherhood wins we're all in big trouble, etc., etc.) should be completely demolished by now. Notions of "allies" and "enemies" have long been "bleached" into meaningless cliches and pieces on a chessboard some imagine we can move around. I think we will soon have to stop fantasizing about "stability" and get back to basics: what does it mean to be an "ally" or an "enemy," and what kind of ally and enemy do we want to be? Then we will see if we have it in us to be that kind of ally and enemy. We don't need to guess which way Egypt will go, or to try and manipulate the process (as if we could)--we just need to know, and make sure others know, how we are going to read the signs put out by whatever regime ultimately emerges.

Posted by: adam62 | January 30, 2011 3:14 PM | Report abuse

We can certainly make things worse,
Posted by: eoniii

So is too little,too late better than too much,too soon? I guess JR wants a three bears style foreign policy,Just Right.

Posted by: rcaruth | January 30, 2011 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Can we fence-sit until Obama begs Kissinger to take a shuttle-- the old dog might still have some new tricks left in his little black bag.

Posted by: aardunza | January 30, 2011 3:45 PM | Report abuse

We can certainly make things worse,
Posted by: eoniii

So is too little,too late better than too much,too soon? I guess JR wants a three bears style foreign policy,Just Right.

Posted by: rcaruth
------------
I think our policy needs to be fact-based and nuanced, i.e. smart diplomacy. We're essentially trying to avoid disaster rather than usher in a Jeffersonian republic. Of four things I'm fairly certain: Mubarak's day is about over; the army is our best hope and must not lose its wide popular support; we must be seen as on the side of freedom and not cause this mass movement to become anti-American; and we must block the Muslim Brotherhood at all costs.

Posted by: eoniii | January 30, 2011 4:11 PM | Report abuse

"and we must block the Muslim Brotherhood at all costs."

All costs? Including, say, air strikes, invasion, assassinations of emergent MB leaders?

Posted by: adam62 | January 30, 2011 4:41 PM | Report abuse

"and we must block the Muslim Brotherhood at all costs."

All costs? Including, say, air strikes, invasion, assassinations of emergent MB leaders?

Posted by: adam62
-----------------
No. Poor choice of words. I'd rule out those options (they wouldn't work, anyway), but we need to do all we possibly can do within bounds to thwart the Brotherhood. We're not a main player in Egypt, but what influence we do have should be used wisely.

Posted by: eoniii | January 30, 2011 5:12 PM | Report abuse

"No. Poor choice of words. I'd rule out those options (they wouldn't work, anyway), "

Yes, and I wouldn't want to hold you to them--I don't disagree with you much, but it seems to me telling that you were drawn to such a word choice--that was, it seems to me, a reasonable, almost natural way to speak when we could consider ourselves "main players." Now, we're left to using what influence we have wisely--but, first, we need to be wise enough to know who we can influence, how and to what extent. Do we even have the faintest notion of any of that? It seems to me that it's easier to point to likely unintended consequences of whatever we do than to describe the intended consequence. (For example, what in the world could we do that would help prevent the Egyptian army from losing popular support? And would doing that, if we could figure it out, lead to the army losing support two months or two years from now? What if maintaining popular support requires that the army take stances that will make us wish it no longer had such support? Etc...) In that case, we need a new vocabulary, one commensurate with the kind of "player" we are now becoming.

Posted by: adam62 | January 30, 2011 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | January 30, 2011 11:22 AM

"Egypt is Obama's Katrina/Waco/Iran-Contra/Hostage Crises/Watergate. This will forever be remembered as his greatest failing."

Or maybe it's Obama's 911.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 30, 2011 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 30, 2011 11:30 AM

"Funny how everybody gets so much smarter AFTER they leave government service!"

And equally funny how the neocons become so moral once they're out of power. Why didn't they advocate cutting aid to Egypt 8 years ago, especially with freedom being on the march and all?

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 30, 2011 5:47 PM | Report abuse

I admire a winning strategy no matter where it comes from, and the conservatives have certainly developed one here.

They send out Elliott Abrams to cheer for democracy and human rights, because he has impeccable Israeli credentials that can't be sniped at.

The send out John Bolton and Michael Ledeen in the background to worry about Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood.

If democracy wins out, the Abrams crowd will be pushed in front to tout Bush as the winner, citing policies they never implemented during their time in power as the reason. (see above)

If fundamentalism wins out, Abrams will be receeded into the background and Bolton will be pushed to the front to say it's all Obama's fault, that he "lost" Egypt. (ably assisted by Jennifer Luce)

The Dark Lord Cheney lies waiting in the background to reinforce the winning conservative side, as soon as sufficient burning of his papers and scrubbing of his old quotes can take place.


Obama never gets credit for anything no matter the winner, but he gets the blame for any misstep no matter who makes it, even the Egyptian military.


It's hypocritical and relies on a total fabrication of history of course, but as political strategy it's a flawless winner.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 30, 2011 5:51 PM | Report abuse

A recent Pew poll shows how difficult it will be to prevent a dangerous, oppressive Islamacist government from replacing the current regime. By a 59-27 majority, Egyptians favor "Islamacists" over "modernizers". 20% of Egyptians approve of AQ, 40% of Hezbollah, and 49% of Hamas. Sharia law seems a likely result of a popularly-elected government: 82% favor stoning adulterers, 77% favor amputating the hands of thieves, and 84% favor the death penalty for Muslims who leave the faith.

We need for the army to hold together and to move Egypt in a peaceful, less oppressive direction, if at all possible, but to do whatever it takes to stop an Islamacist take-over.

Posted by: eoniii | January 30, 2011 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Beniyyar,

"now Egypt under the bus the moment they are perceived to be more of a political or diplomatic disadvantage than a benefit."

You have to admire the degree of denial Jennifer and Beni are displaying here. As if turning on puppet dictators is somehow a new concept unique to Obama.

It's been the trade mark of US foreign policy for half a century.

Nevertheless, Beni is obviously a big fan of brutal tyrants (he likes to call them moderates) , which seems to go hand in hand with Israeli supporters.

"They know that with Obama they could easily be dumped next, while they also know that Mubarak could always be relied on in a pinch."

Don;t you just love the irony? Beni says that moderates are worried about being dumped, which of course, would not be an issue if they were democratically elected.

"Obama must also be worrying that because of his naive, incompetent, and stupid meddling, he may have brought a fundamentalist, Jihad oriented, anti American and anti Israel Islamic government to power in Egypt"

I doubt he'd worried about being blamed for it. Everyone can plainly see that this is 40 years of US foreign policy unraveling. Obama can only be blamed for 2 out of the 40.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 30, 2011 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: eoniii | January 30, 2011 1:12 PM

"That craven betrayal of an ally didn't gain us any goodwill with his successors."

Yes eonii, they were such an u8ngrateful lo0t that we finally pulled the plug on a dictator that had oppressed and brutalized the population for 25 years.


" we need to make our support for the Egyptian people clear, as we failed to do recently in Iran."

Are you really that tone deaf eonii? HAs it not occurred to you that any US support will be viewed as a kiss of death? During the Iranian demonstrations, the Green movement was pleading with the US NOT to help, or intervene or even give public support for them, because any such action would undermine their credibility in the eyes of the Iranian public.

The Egyptians are not as stupid as you seem to believe. They know Mubarak was Washington's puppet. If we care about the Egyptian public, the best we can do is shut up and mind our own business.

"The best outcome would be a military replacement of Mubarak and a gradual development of democratic institutions"

You mean, the best outcome for the US?

"The worst outcome would be an anti-American theocracy imposed by the Muslim Brotherhood."

For God's sake eonii, walk over to the TV, switch it off and go to the MB web site and read what they have to say. They denounce Al Qaeda BTW.

http://www.ikhwanweb.com/

They have just put out a statements that

a) The Muslim Brotherhood continues to call for all opposition groups to unite and has said that they’ll support Mohamed ElBaradei as the lead opposition negotiator.
b) The Brotherhood has also said that Hosni Mubarak is responsible for the current Egyptian political mess.
c) The MB weren't even involved in this uprising, but were actually caught by surprise.

What is taking place in Egypt is none of our bushiness anymore than a Us presidential election is theirs. Get it eonii? This is not about us or your insecurities and paranoia. This is about the people of Egypt and no one else.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 30, 2011 6:14 PM | Report abuse

More for eonii,

Peter Bergen, security analyst for CNN, demolished an anchor's suggestion that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization.

The MB is a "responsible" organization that has renounced terrorist tactics long ago. "Of course they are democratic," Bergen said."These groups are all around the Middle East, sometimes they become the government.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 30, 2011 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: eoniii | January 30, 2011 5:52 PM

"We need for the army to hold together and to move Egypt in a peaceful, less oppressive direction, if at all possible, but to do whatever it takes to stop an Islamacist take-over."

Brilliant suggestion eonii. How about printing signs with the slogan

"The beatings will continue until moral improves"

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 30, 2011 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: eoniii | January 30, 2011 4:11 PM | Report abuse

" the army is our best hope and must not lose its wide popular support; we must be seen as on the side of freedom and not cause this mass movement to become anti-American; and we must block the Muslim Brotherhood at all costs."

Don't you just love the nontraditional here? Eonii wants the army to impose martial law and suppress dissent, but wants Egyptians to accept we support freedom.

Eonii really missed his calling. He sounds like a Karl Rove mini me.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 30, 2011 6:24 PM | Report abuse

shingo:

Mubarak was never Washington's puppet. He was a standard issue Middle Eastern Sunni dictator, within the usual parameters. See Assad, Saddam, and the whole House of Saud.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 30, 2011 6:33 PM | Report abuse

"Mubarak was never Washington's puppet."

I beg to differ John,

All dictators, by their very nature, are self serving hand contemptuous of the public, thus rely on foreign support to remain in power. In return for that support, Mubarak did as he was told.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 30, 2011 6:50 PM | Report abuse

"I admire a winning strategy no matter where it comes from, and the conservatives have certainly developed one here."

I really don't think there's some conservative central committee running the complex plays you outline here. Maybe the conservatives disagree with each other, or are just as lost and confused about what to do as everyone else seems to be, maybe including the Egyptians themselves.

The only thing we can do is, very minimally, contribute to the crystallization of events by calling on any parties that emerge as players to reveal and commit themselves--whether it be the Muslim Brotherhood or any other association, we can call on them to let everyone know what their intentions are regarding rights, elections, the peace treaty with Israel, etc. And then we can monitor them in terms of their promises and self-representations--and, we can start to shape out own responses accordingly, so that we start to crystallize as well. I don't expect any coherence from Obama, but some conservatives, at least, might stand back in the way I'm suggesting and start framing events in liberal democratic terms. There's no reason, in fact, that Republicans can't take advantage of this situation to start developing their own foreign policy, much as the Democrats in Congress started doing in 07, with Pelosi's and Kerry's trips to the Middle East. Or, at least, some Republicans, perhaps some of those seriously considering a bid in '12.

Posted by: adam62 | January 30, 2011 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Shingo, as an American, my primary concern is American interests, in this case preserving a friendly government in Egypt that is at peace with Israel and is an enemy of Arab terrorism. Mubarak has been a pretty good friend of the US though hardly a puppet. Most of all, he hasn't caused us problems. We tried unsuccessfully to move him in a democratic direction precisely to prevent the present crisis.

I'm old enough to remember many tyrannical movements that have cloaked their totalitarian intentions in moderate, democratic rhetoric -- the popular front approach. This transparent ruse always seems to dupe western experts and reporters, which is the origin of the term "useful idiot". Anyone who thinks the Muslim Brotherhood wouldn't ultimately crush their opponents and foolish allies like elBaradei, support the region's terrorists, and impose Sharia law, especially given the Pew poll results cited above, is objectively an idiot.

Posted by: eoniii | January 30, 2011 7:04 PM | Report abuse

Shingo:

I understand your comment about the need for foreign support, but we would need a much bigger space I think to go into Mubarak's general history as a ruler of Egypt. We will have to agree to disagree on this one.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 30, 2011 7:08 PM | Report abuse

adam62:

Agree generally with what you wrote. I was speaking figuratively of course, not literally.

I have no issues with the idea of criticizing Obama's response to the crisis from the right or left. I only point out the abusrdity of a poster or two who say Obama CAUSED the crisis in Egypt.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 30, 2011 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Eoniii,

American interests are what takes place in America. Beyond those borders, they are not American interests but US hegemony.

Israel is Israel's concern. Terrorism doesn't just grow in a vacuum. If you are concerned about terrorism, then you should be concerned about putting an end to what drives people to commit terrorism. And FYI, it's not religion.

As Robert Pape documented in his DOD funded study of suicide attacks for he last 30 years (called Dying to Win) , 90-95% of attacks are related to territorial disputes and occupation.

Mubarak hasn't necessarily caused us problems in the short term, but as Bin Laden stipulated n his 1996 Fatwa against the US, Us support for dictator in the Arab world was one of his primary grievances. We have never tried to move him in a democratic direction beyond giving empty lip service while winking at him. We had Mubarak doing our bidding, so risking him being replaced with someone who wasn't willing to take orders from Washington was not an agenda by any means.

“I'm old enough to remember many tyrannical movements that have cloaked their totalitarian intentions in moderate, democratic rhetoric -- the popular front approach.”

“Anyone who thinks the Muslim Brotherhood wouldn't ultimately crush their opponents and foolish allies like elBaradei, support the region's terrorists, and impose Sharia law, especially given the Pew poll results cited above, is objectively an idiot.”

Seeing as it has never happened, you are speculating and your speculation is based on ignorance and paranoia. The MB's track record speaks for itself. You're not getting your information from those with any knowledge about the MB, but a bunch of right wing think tanker in grey suits in Washington, who by and large, don't know the first thing about Egypt.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 30, 2011 7:19 PM | Report abuse

eonii:

For the likely ultimate fate of Mohamed ElBaradei, see my post about Iranian transitional figures above!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 30, 2011 7:20 PM | Report abuse

shingo:

Perhaps you could then enlighten me on something, because I do not pretend expertise on the Brotherhood.

Why is it that are almost universally portrayed as anti-western? If their agenda is not the creation of an Islamic form of government, then what do you consider it to be. Do you feel their ultimate goals are at all secular in nature?

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 30, 2011 7:25 PM | Report abuse

"adam62:

Agree generally with what you wrote. I was speaking figuratively of course, not literally."

I thought you were maybe being a bit facetious, but didn't want to presume.

Posted by: adam62 | January 30, 2011 7:35 PM | Report abuse

John,

I am not expert on MB either, though I have spoken to those who do belong to it while in Egypt. These people I spoke to were largely well educated, moderate, and by no means wore their religion on their sleeve. They are pro democracy, and pro reform, and clearly disgusted with the corruption in Egypt.

First of all, I don't think there's any mystery as to why the MB are portrayed as anti-western. This has been a trade mark strategy by the ruling elite since the 50's when the same was said about Mossadegh and Arbenz in Guatemala. Any leader or political movement that stands in the way of our foreign policy is reflexively labelled anti western.

There's no denying that Egypt is a predominantly Muslim state, and the MB are obviously interested in seeing a Muslim state emerge, but how and what that state would look like unclear. The Turkish leadership for example, has moved towards a stronger Islamic identity, but it has hardly become the Taliban.

We've been told all along that if Hezbollah were ever to take power, that they would impose Shariah law yet they have appointed a pro Western Sunni billionaire with strong ties to the business community. I expect we'd see a similar strategy form the MB if they were ever to come to power.

The bottom line is that the MB are indeed the largest political group in Egypt.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 30, 2011 7:55 PM | Report abuse

It's such a disgrace that the Washington Post gives this hateful and ignorant woman a column just so as to appeal to some of the few remaining Post readers who cling to the "glory days" of diplomatic master himself: George W. Bush.

But I'm glad Ms. Rubin supports democracy in Egypt-- and I'm sure she would gladly do so if the result of such democracy were the free and fair election of the Muslim Brotherhood? I was for some reason under some impression that she wasn't so gung-ho about democracy when it comes to the democratically elected Palestinian leadership, Hamas. Glad to she's come around.

Posted by: prohr | January 30, 2011 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Just watched the Cowardly Lion on Huckabee tonight. He said that Obama was gettting it "about right" in not reflexively endorsing the opposition to
"longtime ally" Mubarak.

So what's next Jennifer, will you be back to quoting the redoubtable Christian Whiton tomorrow?

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 30, 2011 9:15 PM | Report abuse

shingo:

Thanks for the answer. We shall see, all of us.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 30, 2011 9:17 PM | Report abuse

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/egypt/8289686/Egypt-protests-Americas-secret-backing-for-rebel-leaders-behind-uprising.html

"The American Embassy in Cairo helped a young dissident attend a US-sponsored summit for activists in New York, while working to keep his identity secret from Egyptian state police.

On his return to Cairo in December 2008, the activist told US diplomats that an alliance of opposition groups had drawn up a plan to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak and install a democratic government in 2011."

Why would Mubarak listen to anything Obama has to say in the face of such double dealing? I don't know if the current insurgents are the ones we've trained, but I can't see how this has helped. I hope we're in contact with the Egyptian military and they're on our side.

Posted by: athorpe | January 31, 2011 12:08 AM | Report abuse

It seems that the White House is now taking orders from Netenyahu. They're backing away from criticism of Mubarak and are now opposed to any more to remove him from power.

I guess Jennifer now has some back tracking to do herself.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 31, 2011 5:15 AM | Report abuse

"It seems that the White House is now taking orders from Netenyahu. They're backing away from criticism of Mubarak and are now opposed to any more to remove him from power."

It's off topic, but this comment offers a nice illustration of how anti-Israelism shades into anti-semitism--it's absurd to think that Obama, or any American President, "takes orders" from the Israel Prime Minister--unless you also believe that the tiny American Jewish minority is unbelievably powerful--and how would one explain such power except through exceptional deviousness, cleverness, amorality, etc.? It's typical, for example, of the writings of Mearshimer and Walt, where the "Jews" carry out all the action and everyone else is an innocent victim or deluded dupe.

Posted by: adam62 | January 31, 2011 7:02 AM | Report abuse

Mubarek, at least in his early years, has been a decent president but its ludricrous to support him in power this long. (in his 80's and in power for 20-30 years!) The will of the Egyptian citizens should be respected. The people there are only doing what those in Iran did a few months ago. And did we support Ahmadinejad then? Every time we try to effect change it backfires on us. And we in the U.S. must not listen to Israel's "call for silence" regarding regime change. They're only trying to prop up Mubarak. Our interests are not Israeli interests. They don't listen to us when they launch their provocative and greedy actions such as more West Bank and Jeruselum settlement building or their total blockades of Palestinians. And we shouldn't listen to them in this. Only then will we escape the label of being Israel's guard dog or henchman and have some respect among other countries. We've got to let the world evolve, stick to our own narrow interests and work on improving our own domestic concerns.

Posted by: bikeboatski | January 31, 2011 12:01 PM | Report abuse

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