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Posted at 4:45 PM ET, 02/ 1/2011

Mubarak won't run -- or run from the country

By Jennifer Rubin

The Post reports:

President Hosni Mubarak announced Tuesday that he would not run for reelection in a presidential vote set for September, but he vowed to remain in power until a successor is chosen.

In a televised speech to the nation, Mubarak said he would work hard in his remaining months in office to transfer power peacefully to a new elected president.

He vowed, "This is my country. This is where I lived, I fought and defended its land, sovereignty and interests, and I will die on its soil." Not to state the obvious, but given the anger on the streets, that may come sooner rather than later if he insists on clinging to power.

Somewhat disturbing, however, is the suggestion that Obama's envoy, Frank Wisner, merely urged Mubarak not to run again. If this is all, it's a failing of immense proportions by the Obama administration. If he is going to finally weigh in, why suggest a baby step that is so plainly an anathema to the Egyptian people?

A better approach comes from Jonathan Schanzer and Khairi Abaza writing at the New Republic:

In September 1980, Turkey's government was overthrown in a military coup, but the military cooperated with interim civilian leaders and ultimately presided over a peaceful democratic transition that included the creation of a new constitution in 1982 and elections in 1983. This example inspired members of Egypt's nationalistic, business-oriented Wafd Party, which was resurrected--after disappearing in 1952--at about the same time. So in 1984, a plan based on Turkey's experience was drawn up and presented by Ibrahim Abaza, a member of the executive bureau (and the father of one of this article's authors), Yusuf Hamed Zaki, a member of the party's high committee, and a handful of others. It envisioned a military-backed caretaker government that could maintain order on the streets, create a safe political space, and then guide the nation into representative governance. While Egyptian newspapers debated the merits of the plan, the Mubarak regime, which had been in power for only a few years, ignored it. Similarly, several successive U.S. presidential administrations listened politely, but opted not to pressure their allies in Cairo.

Whether by that mechanism or by some other, we should be using the full weight of American influence, including our ample aid, to prod Mubarak to do more than "not run" for re-election; we should be telling him to leave.

There may not be a perfect outcome. Revolutions rarely turn out as desired, let alone as desired by outside observers. But, as Paul Wolfowitz explained in an interview with the Spectator (UK):

With so much at stake, it is a mistake to be sitting on the sidelines. Western governments can be a positive force on behalf of genuine freedom and against attempts to impose a new kind of tyranny of the Islamist variety. But we can't do that if we are seen as propping up a hated tyrant, or worse, encouraging the kind of bloody crackdown that could at best produce an artificial "stability" for a relatively short period of time. The possibility of a bad outcome is very real, particularly because we did nothing to encourage more evolutionary change earlier, but I believe we have a better chance of a good outcome if we support positive change than if we support the status quo.

Or as Pete Wehner put it, "Pessimism, fatalism, and lamentations are not a particularly useful guide to policy, especially when events are still unfolding and can, with a mix of skill and luck, go our way." The administration, if it is now determined to act, should do so forcefully and with the tools at our disposal (most especially, our ample aid) to ensure the process of transition to a democratic government is not prolonged and violence does not increase. Perhaps something else is going on behind closed doors, but from what we know the administration is still behind the curve and moving at a snail's pace.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 1, 2011; 4:45 PM ET
Categories:  foreign policy  
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Comments

"Somewhat disturbing, however, is the suggestion that Obama's envoy, Frank Wisner, merely urged Mubarak not to run again. If this is all, it's a failing of immense proportions by the Obama administration."

Was there any doubt that you would take a man who has clung to power for 30 years and blame the Obama administration for his not leaving?

"With so much at stake, it is a mistake to be sitting on the sidelines. Western governments can be a positive force on behalf of genuine freedom and against attempts to impose a new kind of tyranny of the Islamist variety"

Of all the "experts" you could have chosen can there be ANYONE who is more discredited, whose advice has been proven more totally incorrect than Paul Wolfowitz?

On the other hand, congratulations on finally finding an Egyptian to talk about Egypt about 5 days in to the process. better late than never!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 1, 2011 5:54 PM | Report abuse

"There may not be a perfect outcome."

Duh. Whatever the outcome, it will be worse than the status quo ante. The only tolerable outcome, as opposed to perfect, is continued army control and an army alliance with pro-democratic forces. The pro-democratic forces must be strengthened gradually as democratic institutions are formed, such as pro-democratic political parties (as opposed to conspiratorial Islamist parties), a free press, and free political speech.

The alliance between democrats and the Muslim Brotherhood must be broken through shrewd tactics that force the MB to show its true nature. The MB must not be allowed to gain power through stealth and conspiracy or a plebiscitary election. Participation in a budding democracy must be limited to parties that accept the principles of democracy and human rights. If the MB is allowed to run for the Parliament, they should be excluded from participation in the government, as the Communists were in Cold War France and Italy.

Posted by: eoniii | February 1, 2011 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Quoting Paul Wolfowitz as an expert on anything is a sick joke.

"There's a lot of money to pay for this. It doesn't have to be U.S. taxpayer money. We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon."
Congressional Testimony, March 27, 2003

Posted by: tracymohr | February 1, 2011 6:15 PM | Report abuse

"Of all the "experts" you could have chosen can there be ANYONE who is more discredited, whose advice has been proven more totally incorrect than Paul Wolfowitz?"

Good call John,

Talk about scraping the bottom of the barrel!

Posted by: Shingo1 | February 1, 2011 6:36 PM | Report abuse

“The only tolerable outcome, as opposed to perfect, is continued army control and an army alliance with pro-democratic forces. The pro-democratic forces must be strengthened gradually as democratic institutions are formed, such as pro-democratic political parties (as opposed to conspiratorial Islamist parties), a free press, and free political speech. “

I see, so you want Egypt's army to impose martial law until you're comfortable enough to allow Egypt to have democracy. How magnanimous of you.

“The alliance between democrats and the Muslim Brotherhood must be broken through shrewd tactics that force the MB to show its true nature. The MB must not be allowed to gain power through stealth and conspiracy or a plebiscitary election.”

In other words, those primitive Arabs cannot be trusted to know what is in their best interests. You would have them leave it to the West, that has such a sterling track record of guiding reforms over the last 30 years.

“Participation in a budding democracy must be limited to parties that accept the principles of democracy and human rights. If the MB is allowed to run for the Parliament, they should be excluded from participation in the government, as the Communists were in Cold War France and Italy.”

You would have made a great fascist eonii.

Posted by: Shingo1 | February 1, 2011 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Hey let's do Wolfowitz's greatest hits shall we. Here's one:

"Wolfowitz: But some of the higher-end predictions that we have been hearing recently, such as the notion that it will take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq, are wildly off the mark. First, it’s hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam’s security forces and his army. Hard to imagine. [2/27/03"

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 1, 2011 6:43 PM | Report abuse

I still can't believe Jennifer quoted Wolfowitz. She must have had to hold her nose as she was typing that one.

Posted by: Shingo1 | February 1, 2011 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Here's some of my other favorites from Wolfowitz, this on Iranian double agent Ahmed Chalabi:

"Nothing in Iraq is black and white. I don't think I know of any figure we're dealing with who hasn't had in one way or another to compromise with the incredibly difficult circumstances of the last 35 years of that country's history," Wolfowitz said. "It's not surprising that many of them -- and Chalabi's not the only one -- made contacts with countries like Iran or Syria or others."

"I am surprised that he seems to be the target, for many years, of particular animus from some parts of this government," Wolfowitz said. "But on the other hand, there are aspects of his recent behavior that are puzzling to me." He did not elaborate on what those activities were."

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 1, 2011 6:53 PM | Report abuse

You would have made a great fascist eonii.

Posted by: Shingo1
-----------------
I'm grateful that you don't think I'm a fascist. ;)

I was trying to make the simple point which history has taught us over the centuries that removing a tyrant usually fails to usher in a golden age of democracy. Egypt has no tradition of democracy or of its requisites -- pluralism, tolerance of different political views, a free press, free speech, a civil society. The Pew poll reveals that large segments of the Egyptian public hold atavistic views regarding Sharia law, Israel and terrorism.

Democracy must be nurtured carefully by the Egyptian army and pro-democracy forces working together, or an Iranian-type result will be the most likely outcome. That would be "fascist", not the gradual transition to liberal democracy that I hope for but realize is a long-shot.

Posted by: eoniii | February 1, 2011 7:13 PM | Report abuse

Jennifer wrote: "Somewhat disturbing, however, is the suggestion that Obama's envoy, Frank Wisner, merely urged Mubarak not to run again. If this is all, it's a failing of immense proportions by the Obama administration."

Perhaps you'd like to update your story?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/01/AR2011020105291.html?hpid=topnews

I know, I know. Straw men are so much easier to combat. It's also unfair of me to a blog post written at 4:45 p.m. when it was contradicted a mere 2 1/2 hours later. My understanding of diplomacy is that it's a delicate matter and not to be done fully in public. Pete Wehner stumbled upon this crucial point when he wrote: "Perhaps something else is going on behind closed doors, but from what we know the administration is still behind the curve and moving at a snail's pace."

Let me provide a translation. He doesn't have a clue as to what's going on, but he'll happily assume the worst of the Obama administration. Makes for fun copy.

That's OK. If this goes well, you'll give Bush all the credit. And if it goes wrong, you'll blame Obama. Heads you win, tails he loses.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | February 1, 2011 7:31 PM | Report abuse

"Egypt has no tradition of democracy or of its requisites"

Most countries don't until they have it. Intolerance to different political views, a free press, free speech, a civil society were almost entirely Mubarak's doing. Egyptians themselves are very much open to political ideas, free speech and tolerance.

Had you ever been to Egypt, you would know that.

"The Pew poll reveals that large segments of the Egyptian public hold atavistic views regarding Sharia law, Israel and terrorism."

You keep referring to Pew polls without linking to them, so I'll assume you are projecting your own views, as opposed to what the polls reveal.

It is a fundamental contradiction to suggest that democracy can be nurtured carefully by an army. That's not how democracy works, because as soon as you give that much responsibility and power to the military, the society becomes a police state.

The only gradual transition to liberal democracy will be at the hands of a transition government, and the obvious candidate would be the Muslim Brotherhood, due to the fact they are the largest political group and the best organized.

That might not be what you;d hoped for but then again, it's not up to you, nor is it any of your business.

Posted by: Shingo1 | February 1, 2011 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Jeezus! I can't believe it. First Elliot Abrams comes crawling out from under his rock and now you want to resurrect Wolfowitz.

You're a real piece of work, Rubin. Not many people would have the chutzpah to cite Wolfowitz as a reliable source for ANYTHING after his sterling performance before the Iraq War.

Posted by: st50taw | February 1, 2011 8:04 PM | Report abuse

I guess we should be using the weight of American influence by conducting "air strikes" and drone attacks in Egypt like Bush II and Iraq. Is that what you and others are suggesting that Obama do, Rubin?

Besides, it was your beloved Ronnie Reagan who loved him some dictators and one of those dictators was Mubarak.

From the mouth of Ronnie:
http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/speeches/1983/12783d.htm

Posted by: lcarter0311 | February 1, 2011 8:22 PM | Report abuse

He vowed, "This is my country. This is where I lived, I fought and defended its land, sovereignty and interests, and I will die on its soil." Not to state the obvious, but given the anger on the streets, that may come sooner rather than later if he insists on clinging to power.

__________________________________________

Jennifer-what a crass, flip, totally juvenile, and ultimately very arrogantly American way to dismiss Hosni Mubarak, this country's greatest friend and supporter in the war against al-Qaeda, the first country to recognize and maintain relations with Israel in the Middle East-a leader who has been an invaluable advisor to so many American presidential administrations.

Hosni Mubarak is a patriot, first and foremost-he will die for his country, and he will die before he will let it go to the al-Qaeda loving Muslim Brotherhood.

On the other hand, Jennifer Rubin has got to be yet another of the greatest idiots in a hit parade of Post juveniles who are allowed to put their inane, asinine, utterly ignorant thoughts to print.

Shameful, Post, that you would let someone so idiotic as this Rubin woman write on such a heavy topic has this. But what can you expect, when the editor/owner doesn't even read the newspaper....

Posted by: Spring_Rain | February 1, 2011 8:29 PM | Report abuse

I always try to read the Republican columns but I have yet to read one by this Rubin person that makes a lick of sense.

Wolfowitz?? Is this a joke??

Posted by: LEFTYLADIG | February 1, 2011 8:38 PM | Report abuse

Shingo, here's the worrisome Pew poll. http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1874/egypt-protests-democracy-islam-influence-politics-islamic-extremism

"The only gradual transition to liberal democracy will be at the hands of a transition government, and the obvious candidate would be the Muslim Brotherhood, due to the fact they are the largest political group and the best organized."

Shingo, I don't know if you're really that naive, but if the MB takes over there will be no "transition to liberal democracy". Their platform calls for Sharia and a new Caliphate. The Prophet (pbuh) didn't need no stinking liberal democracy.

Posted by: eoniii | February 1, 2011 8:46 PM | Report abuse

Shingo, here's the Pew poll I meant to link.
http://pewglobal.org/2010/12/02/muslims-around-the-world-divided-on-hamas-and-hezbollah/

Posted by: eoniii | February 1, 2011 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Neoconservatives excel at throwing their useful idiots under the bus when it's clear they're no longer useful.

If they were truly pro-democracy though they wouldn't behave like such opportunists and keep silent until their tyrant "friends" stumble to give them a push.

"SHARM EL SHEIK, Egypt — President Bush lavished praise on President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt on Wednesday, emphasizing the country’s role in regional security and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process while publicly avoiding mention of the government’s actions in jailing or exiling opposition leaders and its severe restrictions on opposition political activities."
-- NYTimes, January 17, 2008

Posted by: DJ_Spanky | February 1, 2011 8:58 PM | Report abuse

As I suspected eonii, those polls do not support any of your interpretations. The vast majority if Muslims reject terrorism.

As for being naive, I'll take your advice after you've travelled to the region and spoken to Egyptians on the subject of the Muslim Brotherhood. You've comprehension is based on the opinions of know nothings who are ignorant of the region.

Posted by: Shingo1 | February 1, 2011 10:29 PM | Report abuse

" The Prophet (pbuh) didn't need no stinking liberal democracy"


"This would be a lot easier if this were a dictatorship, so long as I was the dictator."
G. W. Bush

Posted by: Shingo1 | February 1, 2011 10:33 PM | Report abuse

"It is a fundamental contradiction to suggest that democracy can be nurtured carefully by an army. That's not how democracy works, because as soon as you give that much responsibility and power to the military, the society becomes a police state."

(Gulp.) Whiskey Rebellion?

(don't hit me, don't hit me!:)

Posted by: aardunza | February 2, 2011 1:05 AM | Report abuse

I am frightened by the gleefully vicious Left wing Democrat responses to this Jennifer Rubin column.
Rather than raise ideas or proposals that might stand some examination, all they do is carp about Bush, or make vulgar personal attacks on Conservatives like Wofowitz, or any person who fails to toe their silly and often dangerous lines.
I say silly and dangerous because even the most committed Left wing Democrat has to have the basic awareness that the positive democratic and representative "change" they are hoping for in Egypt is very unlikely.
Indeed, the "change" they will get is more likely the sort of "change" Khomeini brought to Iran, Hizballa brought to Lebanon, or the Hamas wrought on the Gaza Strip.
Of course most Left wing Democrats probably still believe that the Russian People supported the Soviet regime for 70 years too.
And I suppose the Russian people did, especially after Josef Stalin massacred 50 million of them!

Posted by: Beniyyar | February 2, 2011 3:33 AM | Report abuse

For the benefit oe eonii and John Marshall, some background on the Muslims Brotherhood:

For a time, the US and its Egyptian sock puppets were allied with the Muslim Brotherhood during the cold war era, as a bulwark against Nasserite and pro-Soviet socialist groupings.

As Robert Dreyfuss points out in his book Devil’s Game:

“In Egypt, Anwar Sadat brought the Muslim Brotherhood back to Egypt. In Syria, the United States, Israel, and Jordan supported the Muslim Brotherhood in a civil war against Syria. And, as described in a groundbreaking chapter in Devil’s Game, Israel quietly backed Ahmed Yassin and the Muslim Brotherhood in the West Bank and Gaza, leading to the establishment of Hamas.”

Posted by: Shingo1 | February 2, 2011 5:26 AM | Report abuse

"I am frightened by the gleefully vicious Left wing Democrat responses to this Jennifer Rubin column."

Yo needn't be.

First of all, the mess in the Middle East largely ushered in by Bush when he insited that the way to combat terorrism was to enforece democracy. Ironically, he was right in a way, though not as he envisioned.

Wofowitz is not, nor has ever been a cpnservative BTW.

"I say silly and dangerous because even the most committed Left wing Democrat has to have the basic awareness that the positive democratic and representative "change" they are hoping for in Egypt is very unlikely."

No, that's simpy your own limitation. Let's forget about who is and who is not a Democrat, because there are plenty who are not left wing. But what is to say that prpgrssives and left wingers hold out an ideal image of what Egypt would look like? How dare you or anyone who is not an Egyptian even indulge in such a patronising pursuit? Would you care what people in Africa or Russia hope the US would one day become?

People on the righ need to get a grip and realize that the world does nto revolve around their neurosees.

There is no evidence that the developments n Egypt will lead to a sitautino like Iran or Lebanon, or Gaza, but that's entirely up to the Egyptians to decide, not you and not Israel.

And let's face it Beniyyar, for you and Jennifer and eoniim, Israel is all that matters to you isn't it?

I suggest you sit back, pour yourself a stiff drink and get your head around the fact that there is a new reality and you might as well get used to it.

Posted by: Shingo1 | February 2, 2011 6:04 AM | Report abuse

I'm so glad Ms.Rubin et al is absolutely positive she knows what is best for Egypt from her home 8000 miles away. I see more knee jerk anti-Omaba here then actual thinking going on. Now if someone could skip the liberal/conservative nonsense we might see more light. Instead all we get is heat.

Posted by: kchses1 | February 2, 2011 7:19 AM | Report abuse

Shingo, I mentioned earlier that Sadat brought the Muslim Brotherhood back from exile. He thought he could use them as a counter-weight to the Nasserite Communists which he saw as the main threat to his rule. But after the Camp David peace agreements, the MB issued a fatwah on Sadat and one of their associated groups murdered him. Mubarak took power and ruthlessly repressed them, saving Egypt from what happened in Iran, Gaza and southern Lebanon.

Posted by: eoniii | February 2, 2011 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Shingo, my concern is for American interests. A pro-terrorist, theocratic Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt would be a catastrophe for America. What's the point of removing the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq if we end up with a mortal enemy in the largest, most important Arab state. The War on Terror -- the campaign to deny state support to the sort of terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 -- would be lost. Instead, it would become either a cold or hot war with state sponsors of terrorism -- Iran for Shiite terrorism and Egypt for Sunni terrorism.

Posted by: eoniii | February 2, 2011 10:44 AM | Report abuse

beniy wrote:

"make vulgar personal attacks on Conservatives like Wofowitz"

Perhaps you think it is vulgar to point out how many times Wolfowitz has been explicitly and demonstrably wrong, using his own words.

I suspect that the survivors of the many dead, and the nearly trillion dollars lost because he had no idea what he was talking, about suggests otherwise.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 2, 2011 11:42 AM | Report abuse

(rhetorical only, responses NA)
Has Wolfowitz written his Retrospective yet? (haven't shelled out for Feith, Rumsfeld, or found in nearby libraries yet). I can only surmise he and Feith might quibble, no, they had SOME idea what they were talking about, but couldn't predict the future, esp. using Dick Armitage's pate as crystal ball, so there!

Posted by: aardunza | February 2, 2011 2:07 PM | Report abuse

“A pro-terrorist, theocratic Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt would be a catastrophe for America.”

Eonii,

Get a grip. The MD is not the Taliban, or Saddam, though Mubarak did his best to emulate him. They are not prop terrorists, nor had anything to do with 911. Bin Laden and Zawahiri have condemned the MB for being moderate and pro democracy.

If the MB was remotely as scary as you make them out to be, they would have been listed by the State Department as a terrorist group. Guess what? They're not.

Posted by: Shingo1 | February 2, 2011 7:06 PM | Report abuse

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