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Posted at 8:40 AM ET, 02/ 3/2011

Obama dissed, Mubarak cracks down

By Jennifer Rubin

As Jackson Diehl wrote yesterday afternoon, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak -- the day after Obama's "now" speech -- unleashed a violent crackdown on the protestors and the media. Diehl observed that "if Obama does not want to be known as the American president who facilitated the ugly violence Mubarak has unleashed in Cairo, he will have to act forcefully, publicly -- and quickly."

But what we got, instead, was Robert Gibbs bleating, simply repeating that we condemn the violence and that the definition of "now" is, well, now. But there was no call for Mubarak to step down or the threat that aid will be cut until and unless Mubarak leaves and a transition government that respects the rights of Egyptians is installed.

Khairi Abaza of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies told me last night that "crowds in Cairo are interpreting the increase in violence as an Obama green light to Mubarak to end this in a heavy-handed way. The lack of firm action [by the U.S.] is disastrous PR for Obama. The average Egyptian still believes in conspiracy theories and has firm convictions that Mubarak does what the U.S. government tells him to do."

Mubarak's disregard for any admonitions Obama delivered is a pathetic indication of just how ineffectual Obama has been, and the low regard our "friend" Mubarak has for the U.S. I asked Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute what she thought Mubarak's actions said about Obama's diplomatic skill. She e-mailed back, "I think it indicates that Mubarak thinks he has Obama handled. And the mixed messages from the White House (Bill Daley saying the Obama-Mubarak chat was "cordial", Robert Gibbs suggesting it was "candid") underscore that Mubarak may have read the American president correctly." In other words, because Obama is reticent, if not inert, Mubarak was emboldened to move against his own people.

I also asked Pletka if we shouldn't be cutting off aid. She argued, "You can make an announcement -- and the U.S. should do that immediately -- but it doesn't just turn off. That said, this only makes clear that our aid and our strategic and moral interests have nothing to do with each other."

Now, however, we face the prospect of the Muslim Brotherhood rising to power, either in a transition government or by elections. (If the elections are sped up, ironically, only the Muslim Brotherhood would be organized, have candidates at the ready and be prepared for a campaign.) As much as some in the media have downplayed the Muslim Brotherhood, suggesting its Egyptian incarnation is more reasonable, Pletka says we shouldn't kid ourselves. "Let's not tell lies about the [Muslim Brotherhood] in the name of 'non-interference,'" she cautions, adding that shouldn't "mean we dump the opposition. To the contrary, it simply means that we make clear that any new Egyptian government and all its component parts must accept peace with Israel, non-violence and democratic rule of law. Or it will not have a relationship with the U.S. Period."

An experienced Middle East negotiator I spoke with envisions less stringent requirements, and a gloomier outcome. As he put it, if the Muslim Brotherhood agrees "to abide by democratic rules, their candidates must be allowed to run. They'll win seats.They'll harm our relationship. Egypt will look more like Turkey."

Could a different outcome have been obtained had we been laying the groundwork and forcefully advocating for democratic reforms? Well, we'll never know. Obama conceived of "Muslim Outreach" as an opportunity to cozy up to dictators, not to embrace democracy advocates in the Middle East. Egypt, the U.S.-Egypt relationship and the region will suffer for it.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 3, 2011; 8:40 AM ET
Categories:  foreign policy  
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Comments

I've been restrained in my criticism of Barry on this issues (and dubious of the unabashed enthusiasm of some respecting the protests) but it is looking (and really almost anyone could have predicted this) that Obama will manage to, once again, make the absolute worst of a bad situation.

In the fall of 2007 Rich Lowry (to be sure he focused principally on the many character defects the two share) had a piece in NR analogizing Barry to Carter and for a long time now and moreso everyday, the number and magnitude of the disasters bestowed on the country by one looks likely to be matched by the other.

It is rather frightening to think where we would have been had Jimmah been reelected or where we will be in 2016 should the worse happen. To be sure, a second Obama term will no doubt burry the Democratic party almost completely for the larger part of 2 decades (no I'm not predicting Carville's 40 year dominance for the GOP but but yes the gross stain of the Obama presidency will make it awful difficult for the Ds for quite a while) and the Republican presidential stable looks likely to be bursting at the seams by that time. Still, it would be best to avoid this catastrophe and it seems the current R despondency about beating Barry (what with the higher poll numbers and all, is misplaced). He remains the favorite, of course, but his SOTU indicated quite clearly his determination to pursue a path that will ineluctably hinder the economic recovery will leave an opining should some Republican have the skill and determination to take advantage of it.

Posted by: cavalier4 | February 3, 2011 9:27 AM | Report abuse

foriegn aid? check out the link below 18.5 billion to Egypt and here we are. and we allow our own states to wonder if they will remain solvent. the highest recipients hate us.

http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2010/04/us-foreign-aid-recipients-show-little-support-for-america-when-voting-at-the-united-nations

Posted by: gaspasr | February 3, 2011 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Jennifer Romney, I do DECLARE! How fast your head can spin around.

I guess you got tired of sitting out there all alone. So, as I predicted (though truthfully I never thought you would Romney around this fast) you have shifted gears in reverse. I believe that many foreign policy experts in your camp, and any ranking officials you may know in Israel finally got around to telling you to put a lid on it.


"Now, however, we face the prospect of the Muslim Brotherhood rising to power, either in a transition government or by elections. (If the elections are sped up, ironically, only the Muslim Brotherhood would be organized, have candidates at the ready and be prepared for a campaign.) As much as some in the media have downplayed the Muslim Brotherhood, suggesting its Egyptian incarnation is more reasonable, Pletka says we shouldn't kid ourselves. "Let's not tell lies about the [Muslim Brotherhood] in the name of 'non-interference,'" she cautions, adding that shouldn't "mean we dump the opposition."

The some in the media who have downplayed the MB is YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The rest of us have been warning about it for the last week or more. You're the one who has been screaming democracy above all, not anybody else.

Finally in your ultimate act of hypocrisy, you've moved to the "if only" defense. If only Obama hadn't been president. If only Bush had been in there, (despite the fact that most former Bush staffers excluding Abrams were 180 degrees against your position)

Just as I predicted!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 3, 2011 10:09 AM | Report abuse

cavalier:

Could you be more specific? I mean I know you are not in Jennifer's (old) camp of democracy above all. What should Obama have done differently? Presuming he COULD have pushed Mubarak out the door (which I doubt), should he have done so? If you agree that Mubarak should stay until September, certainly you can't believe that Obama could have stopped the violence, do you?

I understand your overall position, but I don't understand your point.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 3, 2011 10:14 AM | Report abuse

johnmarshall, further to some of your prior comments about how food (wheat) inflation is the core problem, go read:

"Food and failed Arab states" Feb 2, 2011
By Spengler
"Even Islamists have to eat. ..."
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MB02Ak01.html

btw, johnm, Spengler also has a blog at atimes where he occasionally offers investment analysis. However, it his all too infrequent analyses of geo-politics that are so very much worth reading.

Posted by: K2K2 | February 3, 2011 10:30 AM | Report abuse

K2K2:

Being the cynical person I am, I have been crying all the way to the bank these many months over inflation around the world.

Just remember, according to the Fed (and Ben Bernanke, who I have a BIG bromance for) the key worry is deflation, not inflation.

That last should bring rcaruth out of hiding today!

Thanks for the reference.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 3, 2011 11:05 AM | Report abuse

All what Mubarak seems to have left is "cash loyalty"

He seems to be able to buy generals, politicians, and thugs because of his wealth obtained through 30 years of corruption. Mr Obama freeze his assets now and watch as the people aroiund him will end his rule in heartbeat.

Posted by: stokman-2000 | February 3, 2011 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Hosni Mubarak has managed to run Egypt and stay in power for over thirty years, avoiding assassination and outmaneuvering his opposition at every turn.
Obama made a huge mistake, one of many by the way, by betraying a loyal ally like Mubarak. After all this turmoil is over and Mubarak remains in power, Obama will be forced to bow deeply, apologize to Mubarak, and find a way to repair the damage he has done to American Egyptian relations.
Obama seems to have a talent for doing the wrong thing, to the wrong person, at the wrong time.

Posted by: Beniyyar | February 3, 2011 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Yes, I agree: US must immediatly give it's clear support to the egyptcian masses and make know the arab autocrat kings that they must manage the concessions to democracy much better then Mubarak. The problem at this time is that of not to lose all influence in Egypt and we must ignore temporarily the problem of keeping the rest of our arab world allies. It's neccesary to retire our economic and moral support to the military elites in Egypt.

Posted by: Alfreditroo | February 3, 2011 11:28 AM | Report abuse

I find myself pleased to read journalism consisting of truth in quoting people, such as Jackson Diehl, Khairi Abaza, Robert Gibbs and others only to have your opinions shatter any kind of reasoning. Jennifer Rueben, "Mubarak's disregard for any admonitions Obama delivered is a pathetic indication of just how ineffectual Obama has been, and the low regard our "friend" Mubarak has for the U.S."

What has convinced us in your writing that Mubarak, has disregarded any admonitions of President Obama? I seek truth about how Mubarak regards the President and it is. Now, I see the use of 'pathetic' and 'indication' and on these words I must ponder, because the reference is to an 'ineffectual Obama'. Did it not prompt the U.S. supporter to Mubarak, John McCain, to speak publically what the President and the U.S. people demand? Is there an arguement that John McCain, did not support Mubarak? Again I, seek truth. Also, those words reference "the low regard our "friend" has for the U.S." Does the use of quotes on 'friends' insinuate that Mubarak is not or has never been your friend, Jennifer Ruben?

Regarding, "In other words, because Obama is reticent, if not inert, Mubarak was emboldened to move against his own people." I assume this is your opinion that you somehow feel needs to be explained? What from the quote from Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute now 'tells us Oboma is reticent, if not inert'? "Mubarak was emboldened to move against his own people" only leads me to ask, how was he 'emboldened' and when did he first, 'move against his people'?

Posted by: pastorsativ | February 3, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse

@johnmashall

All right you got me there. I'm doing a little Thursday morning quarterbacking and my comment was more observation than (retroactive) prescription. The more and more likely outcome, however, is that we appear to be somewhere in the process of attempting (with futility?) to push out Mubarak, alienating the Egyptian people, "complicating" our relations with the Egyptian military, and allowing the prospect of considerable power for the MB while granting them the greatest possible legitimacy both in the guise of our blessing and their opposition to the U.S. nice work.

I'm not going to get into the minutia of what he should have done when* but I do not seek to lead the United States and to claim superior "Judgement" in foreign policy** but don't see my reluctance (or, indeed inability) to do as a reason for abstaining from criticism of Obama anymore than I than I view my inability to throw a football more than 35 yards as a reason to abstain to from criticizing Tim Tebow's throwing motion.

Obama is the "leader" with great historical aspiration and the burden is his if he is to demonstrate the ability to absorb, filter and synthasize facts and arguments, to exhibit the coup d'oeil. To date he has done almost nothing but demonstrate the complete absence of such.


**Obviously all sorts of people have been weighing in on this in recent day and I've read and heard only an infinitesimal fraction of what has been mooted and have been inclined to be skeptical of almost all such suggestions. Last night I spoke with a friend who had held a very senior Congressional position and a middle-seniorish Executive Branch job dealing with foreign policy (and who might be characterized - loosely - as a "neocon"/realist/foreign policy type) who was full of a number of excellent suggestion. She was reasonably persuasive and I could rehearse some of those suggestions but I couldn't claim credit for them and while I think its likely they would have yielded a better result than the Obami stumbling around I cannot guarantee that. In any case, as I say above, it is not and never was her (and still less my) responsibility to formulate this policy (albeit under very difficult circumstances) and the blame must rest with those claiming such responsibility.


**The proposition was always quite absurd. Its hardly evidence of "judgment" (or JUD - GE - MENT as our VP might say) for a liberal Democrat seeking to make his way up in Illinois politics to oppose the Iraq invasion anymore than it was evidence of judgement for and Ivy League student to support the nuclear freeze in the early 80s (a position Obama, for all of his - in some cases "literal" - embrace of Reagan has so far failed to do.

Posted by: cavalier4 | February 3, 2011 12:39 PM | Report abuse

cavalier:

God knows that I would be the last person to say someone had no right to crticize. LOL

What I am looking at is this. We are currently in a lose-lose proposition in Egypt.

If we back Mubarak, we promote the cause of anti-Islamic fundamentalism, which I believe is a good thing. However we are seen as backing despotism by the larger Arab populations of the world.

If we ask Mubarak to step aside and transition to a democratic government, we look better, but greatly increase the chances of an anti-American and anti-Israeli government coming to power.

If you see if differently please share.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 3, 2011 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately I don't see it differently. The best plausible outcome would be for Mubarak to leave quickly, for the army to retain authority and the respect of Egyptians, to have fair elections and to try marginalize (if it would be impossible to exclude them entirely) the MB. This outcome might result in a more anti-American and more anti-Israeli government but the fact is the Mubarak regime has clearly just about run its course and was well on its way to to doing so and ultimately democracy in Egypt need not be a bad things (it would be better if it ame about in much more robust civil society - a development Mubarak has worked hard to prevent).

The degree of control which the U.S. and even the Egyptian military can exert to generate such an outcome is obviously limited. Still, a situation in which we abandon Mubarak (thus undermining the extent to which other in the region rely on us, alienate the people and inadvertently grease the skids for the MB to agglomerate power would seem to be the worst of all possible results and we appear headed in that direction (although stay tuned: there are bound to be numerous twists and turns along the way).

Posted by: cavalier4 | February 3, 2011 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Biden will tell Saudi Arabia to Make Room for Hosni.

Posted by: aardunza | February 3, 2011 5:03 PM | Report abuse

hope everyone read Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto in today's WSJ: "Egypt's Economic Apartheid"
"More than 90% of Egyptians hold their property without legal title. No wonder they can't build wealth and have lost hope."

The main point being that it does not matter who is President of Egypt until the legal system is reformed.

It would appear that Mubarak lost his moment to do that in 2004. His other great failure was in education and literacy.

It would still be better if the 'opposition' committee of ten would start talking with Suleiman instead of an endless protest that destroys the Egyptian economy. A sign of maturity...that Obama seems to lack.

Posted by: K2K2 | February 3, 2011 5:14 PM | Report abuse

You've completely lost touch with reality Beniyyar.

Even the neocons are saying Mubarak must go. You're the only blogger anywhere who argues otherwise.

Hasn't Castro has managed to run Cuba and stay in power for over thirty years, avoiding assassination and outmaneuvering his opposition at every turn? Does that mean he get's your vote of confidence?

Obama's only mistake has been his spinelessness and half hearted condemnation of Mubarak.

Mubarak will not remain in power. Many believe he will be gone by the end of the week, but if he were to remain, he would be utterly wounded and unable to run the country. he has lost everyone's confidence and this latest act of brutality has killed any future he might have had.

You simply have no capacity for seeing the world without your Israeli centric view.

Posted by: Shingo1 | February 3, 2011 5:51 PM | Report abuse

cavalier:

We seem to disagree currently on little.

Why then do you seem to think that Obama has played such an outsized role in this (or collaterally, failed to play such a role that was available to him)? I follow your line of thought completely, that's why I fail to understand your conclusion on the president.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 3, 2011 6:13 PM | Report abuse

K2K2

I'm not familiar with the property issue myself. Could it be a vestige of the Nasser days?

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 3, 2011 6:15 PM | Report abuse

John Marshall,

For someone who usually presents a good argument, I can't for the life of me figure out where your head is at.

"If we ask Mubarak to step aside and transition to a democratic government, we look better, but greatly increase the chances of an anti-American and anti-Israeli government coming to power."

If we look better, then there the likelyhood of the government being anti-American is greatly reduced. Can't you see that?

This situation has erupted because we've been sitting on a pressure cooker and adding fuel to the fire. The more we enable it, the worse it will be in the end.

Is is not better, not just for our image, but our interests, to realign our policies so that the anti-American sentiments are dissipated?

Posted by: Shingo1 | February 3, 2011 6:50 PM | Report abuse

John Marshall,

For someone who usually presents a good argument, I can't for the life of me figure out where your head is at.

"If we ask Mubarak to step aside and transition to a democratic government, we look better, but greatly increase the chances of an anti-American and anti-Israeli government coming to power."

If we look better, then there the likelyhood of the government being anti-American is greatly reduced. Can't you see that?

This situation has erupted because we've been sitting on a pressure cooker and adding fuel to the fire. The more we enable it, the worse it will be in the end.

Is is not better, not just for our image, but our interests, to realign our policies so that the anti-American sentiments are dissipated?

Posted by: Shingo1 | February 3, 2011 6:53 PM | Report abuse

John Marshall,

For someone who usually presents a good argument, I can't for the life of me figure out where your head is at.

"If we ask Mubarak to step aside and transition to a democratic government, we look better, but greatly increase the chances of an anti-American and anti-Israeli government coming to power."

If we look better, then there the likelyhood of the government being anti-American is greatly reduced. Can't you see that?

This situation has erupted because we've been sitting on a pressure cooker and adding fuel to the fire. The more we enable it, the worse it will be in the end.

Is is not better, not just for our image, but our interests, to realign our policies so that the anti-American sentiments are dissipated?

Posted by: Shingo1 | February 3, 2011 7:15 PM | Report abuse

John Marshall,

For someone who usually presents a good argument, I can't for the life of me figure out where your head is at.

"If we ask Mubarak to step aside and transition to a democratic government, we look better, but greatly increase the chances of an anti-American and anti-Israeli government coming to power."

If we look better, then there the likelyhood of the government being anti-American is greatly reduced. Can't you see that?

This situation has erupted because we've been sitting on a pressure cooker and adding fuel to the fire. The more we enable it, the worse it will be in the end.

Is is not better, not just for our image, but our interests, to realign our policies so that the anti-American sentiments are dissipated?

Posted by: Shingo1 | February 3, 2011 7:47 PM | Report abuse

John Marshall,

For someone who usually presents a good argument, I can't for the life of me figure out where your head is at.

"If we ask Mubarak to step aside and transition to a democratic government, we look better, but greatly increase the chances of an anti-American and anti-Israeli government coming to power."

If we look better, then there the likelyhood of the government being anti-American is greatly reduced. Can't you see that?

This situation has erupted because we've been sitting on a pressure cooker and adding fuel to the fire. The more we enable it, the worse it will be in the end.

Is is not better, not just for our image, but our interests, to realign our policies so that the anti-American sentiments are dissipated?

Posted by: Shingo1 | February 3, 2011 7:54 PM | Report abuse

John Marshall,

For someone who usually presents a good argument, I can't for the life of me figure out where your head is at.

"If we ask Mubarak to step aside and transition to a democratic government, we look better, but greatly increase the chances of an anti-American and anti-Israeli government coming to power."

If we look better, then there the likelyhood of the government being anti-American is greatly reduced. Can't you see that?

This situation has erupted because we've been sitting on a pressure cooker and adding fuel to the fire. The more we enable it, the worse it will be in the end.

Is is not better, not just for our image, but our interests, to realign our policies so that the anti-American sentiments are dissipated?

Posted by: Shingo1 | February 3, 2011 8:11 PM | Report abuse

Shingo:

I understand your point. The problem is that I believe the future power brokers in Egypt whehter the MB, or the military, etc, have already made their minds up about us.

Looking better to the Arab world as a whole is a very desirable goal. However IF, the big if, the MB has a program to create an Islamic theocratic state in mind, that will not be changed by anthing we do.

You believe the MB is a legitimate political party without a violent agenda. You believe that strongly, and you have more experience from actually being in the country than I do. So your words, if true, carry weight.

I simply do not have enough information to judge if your interpretation of the MB is the correct one. Also revolutionary political parties may have hardcore members who subvert the platform of that party. Is someone like that in the MB movemnt? I don't know, but a chaotic transition of government such as occured in Iraq gives fertile growth to the extremist elements of even stable political parties.

So I know you don't agree, but I hope you understand my position.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 3, 2011 9:49 PM | Report abuse

I was watching Hannity tonight, because even though I consider him a phoney, he's very good at what he does. Like Limbaugh I respect the fact that he knows how to get an audience and create a follwoing.

He had Michelle Malkin on, and though I have heaard the name before and maybe saw her face, I knew nothing about her.

She crticized Obama, which I later learned is her bread and butter, and then he asked her what we SHOULD be doing in Egypt.

The question surprised me because, because I'm pretty good at the names of important people, and I wondered how I missed what her previous role in government or business was.

Anyway, her answer was, forgive me for paraphrasing, we should support the government of Egypt and our allies in Israel and at the same time support all the true freedom loving people in the area. I'm not kidding, it was THAT junior high school/ Miss America contestant!

So I did a little research and I was surprised what I found though in truth I should not have been.

Malkin is apparently a writer, and that's about it. An English major from Oberlin College, she's never held a government position, nor been in the military, nor run for office, nor run a business, nor done anything whatsoever but dispense her opinion on things of which she has no personal knowledge.

To answer the unasked question, yes it WOULD be just as ridiculous to hear the loathesome Keith Olbermann give his opinion about what we should be doing in Egypt too.

So anyway I find Hannity a lot of fun some nights like tonight, I'm just astonished that there are people on both sides in the viewing audience who take the commentators on Fox and MSNBC for informed experts.

As to who I have been listening to mostly Mohamed El-Erian of Pimco, a terrific business man and Egyptian by birth.

However I woonder about my own trust in his opinion because he is exactly the sort of Westernized charismatic person who appeals greatly to Americans in all non Western nations. It makes me wonder does he really know what the Egyptian public and government is thinking/planning or is he too far removed?

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 3, 2011 10:14 PM | Report abuse

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