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Posted at 9:16 AM ET, 02/11/2011

Obama ignored by Mubarak -- again

By Jennifer Rubin

One can scarcely imagine how the U.S. in its handling of the Egyptian revolution could look more inept and less effective. If the stakes were not so high the last few weeks would be material for high farce. (And indeed, a recounting of events by a faux "Joe Biden" does just that.)

Initial caution was followed by insistence that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak "transition now." That, in turn, morphed into agreement to a very gradual transition. But Mubarak has let it be known he's taking no direction from anyone and going nowhere, at least not now.

Early in the day Obama seemed optimistic that all was on track, and comments from CIA director Leon Panetta seemed to indicate Mubarak was on his way out. But, once again, the administration was blindsided by Mubarak.

The Post reports:

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak ceded some authority to his vice president Thursday but refused to quit, insisting that he would stay in office to oversee a drawn-out transfer of power. His defiance stunned and angered hundreds of thousands of protesters in the capital, who responded with chants of "revolution, revolution."

Enormous crowds, which had gathered in anticipation that Mubarak would announce his resignation in a televised address, expressed disappointment and fury as the message sunk in that the president had no intention of leaving. Some masses moved tentatively toward the heavily guarded state television tower, while others vowed to march on the presidential palace.

Mubarak has transferred some authority to his vice president, but he's not heeding the administration's call to move off stage, and he certainly isn't leaving promptly as the protesters demand.

After Mubarak's defiant speech, Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) issued a statement that read, in part:

"The U.S. should be focused on strengthening responsible independent actors who will continue to enforce Egypt's international obligations, and will serve as credible alternatives to the Muslim Brotherhood. At the same time, the U.S. must be clear that we will not engage the Muslim Brotherhood, nor will we give support to a government that includes them.

I am concerned that Mubarak's insistence in continuing to control all political activity in Egypt, rather than providing for stability, may enable the Muslim Brotherhood to manipulate Egyptian frustration to gain greater influence. I hope the Egyptian people will not allow themselves to become pawns of extremists."

She's gotten to the nub of the matter: it's not a call for democracy or Mubarak's speedy transition that risks empowering the Muslim Brotherhood; it is, rather, Mubarak's prolonged tenure that carries the threat of an Islamist resurgence. Elliott Abrams, who testified before her committee, writes today:

For thirty years he ruled under an emergency law that he used to crush all moderate and centrist parties. Not a single significant step toward democracy was taken during all those years of quiet. He will leave behind a Muslim Brotherhood stronger now than when he came to power. Under him, Egypt's prestige and influence in the Arab League and throughout the region have declined to an historic low. To hang on these extra months he has thrust the country into chaos. The longer it continues the harder it will be for Egypt to find a path to real democracy. And the easier it will be for extremists to seize the opportunities that chaos always presents.

As for the administration, all Obama -- who has been rebuffed at every turn by Mubarak and now stands aligned with a government that has enraged the population -- could do was issue oft-repeated admonitions. He concluded:

The Egyptian people have made it clear that there is no going back to the way things were: Egypt has changed, and its future is in the hands of the people. Those who have exercised their right to peaceful assembly represent the greatness of the Egyptian people, and are broadly representative of Egyptian society. We have seen young and old, rich and poor, Muslim and Christian join together, and earn the respect of the world through their non-violent calls for change. In that effort, young people have been at the forefront, and a new generation has emerged. They have made it clear that Egypt must reflect their hopes, fulfill their highest aspirations, and tap their boundless potential. In these difficult times, I know that the Egyptian people will persevere, and they must know that they will continue to have a friend in the United States of America.

It is, however, hardly a friendship worth having for those on the streets. Obama has, if anything, emboldened Mubarak and confirmed that the U.S. lacks an understanding of, let alone the ability to, influence events.

More important, what does the administration do now? We've wagged fingers and stamped feet but to no avail. There is no sign Obama has a back-up plan. And now the danger mounts. Former State Department official Christian Whiton writes:

So far, President Obama has failed the test of presidential leadership during the revolution. He seems unable or unwilling to articulate U.S. interests, much less how to use the tools of government to advance them. It is not too late for him to change course. But until he does this, his actions are making the worst-case scenario of an Islamist Egypt more likely.

The major challenges that confront Obama -- job creation, Middle East unrest, fiscal discipline -- all appear to be above his pay grade. His words are of limited and diminishing utility. And the distinguishing characteristic of this administration is now confusion. As Iran did to Jimmy Carter, Egypt's crisis now threatens to subsume the rest of the agenda. And even worse (as the gulf oil spill did), it may come to symbolize a presidency that lacks the skill and insight needed to manage a crisis and shape events.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 11, 2011; 9:16 AM ET
Categories:  foreign policy  
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Comments

President Obama doesn't seem to know when to quit. Long after most rational leaders would have taken a lower profile and watched a little more passively to see just where the mobocracy and it's members were going and how the Mubarak regime was going to react, Obama continues his inconsistent and inexplicable kicking and pummeling of Hosni Mubarak. Worse, Obama is even inviting more Western leaders to help him smack Mubarak around.
Of course now the situation is really starting to deteriorate for Obama, with the Saudis stepping up to the plate to bat for Mubarak, and Mubarak taking a far more aggressive line towards Obama's interference in domestic Egyptian affairs.
Most people, when they step in something unpleasant on the sidewalk usually walk to the curb and scrape it off and continue on their way.
But Obama is unique, when he puts his foot in something unpleasant, he jumps up and down in it and appears to take great pleasure in doing so.
This seems to be what he is doing with the Egyptian crisis and he is steadily worsening the situation.

Posted by: Beniyyar | February 11, 2011 9:42 AM | Report abuse

The thing about what's going on in Egypt is that it's very fluid. By the time Ms. Rubin or Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) write about one thing, something else may have occurred.

In this case, it's Mubarak's departure from Cairo.

Posted by: MsJS | February 11, 2011 9:50 AM | Report abuse

"One can scarcely imagine how the U.S. in its handling of the Egyptian revolution could look more inept and less effective."

Of course we do. It is not our decision to make. We are to stand by and let the people of Egypt decide and then we will work with the government they form.

So far things are on track. Just read the Post. There are legal steps to take for a smooth transition.

This is a lot of blather and the author should show some shame.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | February 11, 2011 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Tacky, Ms Rubin, very tacky

Posted by: johndenton46 | February 11, 2011 10:30 AM | Report abuse

We've lost whatever influence we had through our naivete and incompetence. No one takes us seriously anymore. Our enemies don't fear us, but our allies do. Soon we won't have any allies.

A Muslim Brotherhood takeover seems inevitable. The army probably can't stand.

Posted by: eoniii | February 11, 2011 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Mubarak's now GONE...what was your point? Oh, meaningless drivel, that's right.

Posted by: princeleo | February 11, 2011 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Jennifer Rubin, you partisan American politics are not helpful.

For too long we've treated Arabs in accordance with their views from the "street." The "square" in Cairo is merely the "end of the road."

Why don't you start a march on Washington, a million people strong, and demand that Obama resign immediately?

There is such a thing as a Written Constitution. You should know that - it is our own country which gave the world that, besides the Wen, Facebook, and Twitter.

Unfortunately, you seem to think that the idealistic mob, in Liberty Square, or the vigilantes there, are substitutes for congressional, or parliamentary activities.

You are not thinking what is best for America, or Egypt, when you dream that "storming of the Bastille" will bring about democracy. Egypt has no history, or tradition of democracy. Even Russia now has a new Tsar - by the name of Putin.

If you look at Mubarak now, he is asking for a dignified exist, on his feet, rather than on his knees. Ultimately, Egypt will decide his fate. But waiting till September does seem like the best option for everybody. It takes time for Candidates for office, the Presidency, or the Parliament, to emerge and present themselves to the People. But you want the of John Reed's "Ten Days that Shook the World" which constituted the 1917 October Revolution which ultimately produced Stalinism, and Putin.

Non-interference in domestic affairs has long been a principle in theory, if far from actual practice, the way the modern world operates.

It would be better if you focused on what democracy specifically means: rights for the women of Egypt (about 50%) to be candidates for office, rights for the Christian Coptic Egyptians (the original non-Arab Egyptians who make up 10% of the population), the rights of homosexuals to be free from homophobia, and even to marry if they so choose).

But maybe the most productive proposal you could come up with was what has always been the concern of Communists and Socialist: "it's the economy, stupid." You are aware that these youthful Egyptians want jobs. You are aware that an Egyptian makes now, on the average, $2 per day. So why don't you propose a Marshal Plan for Egypt: it was good enough for the European Germans that survived Hitler, so why not prove to the Egyptian people that the US of A does want their democracy to succeed. Our democracy has always been about Property Rights. But what does property rights mean to Egyptians when that do not have the jobs, employers, money, education, etc., to secure or acquire property that would give them a standard of living beyond poverty?

Posted by: Ludvikus | February 11, 2011 11:25 AM | Report abuse

"You are not thinking what is best for America, or Egypt, when you dream that "storming of the Bastille" will bring about democracy. Egypt has no history, or tradition of democracy."

Ludvikas, Is there any country in the world that started as a democracy? I'm aware of none. A "history of democracy" has to start somewhere.

I'm willing to give Obama a small break here since it's an evolving situation and evolving very quickly. More over, there's a fine line to walk between not completely shunning an ally (distasteful as Mubarak is) and supporting the democratic aspirations that the protesters might have. That being said, the Obama admin seems to be saying contradictory things on a daily basis.

In my opinion, Obama is in way over his head when it comes to foreign policy. A single A player who's in the Major Leagues.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | February 11, 2011 11:50 AM | Report abuse

In my opinion, Obama is in way over his head when it comes to foreign policy. A single A player who's in the Major Leagues.
Posted by: RitchieEmmons

What % of all our presidents have been minor leaguers or rank amateurs when it comes to foreign policy?

Posted by: rcaruth | February 11, 2011 11:54 AM | Report abuse

I do love idealistic Obama (I confess that I voted for him). But I think his problem now involves his own desire to prove, to the world, and himself as well, that he's Barak, and not Egypt's Mubarak Israel' Barak (sorry - messed up on the spellings)..

But I forgive Obama, being remind of Church's saying: "the United States always does the right think - after it exhaust all the other possibilities!" So let's ease up on Obama a bit (I hope Kissinger gives him a call and reminds him that he can "speak softly, maybe privately, less frantically, since he does carry a "big stick").

By the way, Arabs have a big thing about "honor" and "humiliation." Yet they haven't humiliated Nasser, but are remarkably unconcerned about Mubarak, Nasser's 2nd successor after the assassination of Sadat. The "youth" of Egypt should be reminded that it was Nasserism, and the Egyptian culture of their fathers, grandfathers, and great grandfathers, which produced the predicament they are in. Egypt was the first entity to break away from the Ottoman Empire, and British Colonialism was unsuccessful in planting the seeds of the democracy in Egypt, like it was in the rest of the colonies it subsequently relinquished. The Orient (contrary to what Edward Said maintained) has trouble adopting Western Democracy. The fact is, as Bernard Lewis first informed us, we are experiencing a "Clash of Civilizations" and Egypt is merely the latest front in that war. But the West mistakenly believes that the retreat of Israel from the Palestinian fronts of Gaza and the West Bank will end that War. It will not. Islam needs reform - and that could start by remembering the Antisemitism of Martin Luther rooted in his views of Jews according to the Bible - Radical Muslims, and even the Brothers of the Muslim Brotherhood, contend that the problem is the Jew in accordance with the Koran.

Posted by: Ludvikus | February 11, 2011 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Updates needed.

It's so funny to read this column - first Obama doesn't grasp the moment in Egypt, then Obama doesn't grasp the impact this will have on Israel, then Obama underestimates the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood, then Obama needs to take a stronger stance on one side of history, then Obama takes too strong a stand, then Mubarak is, by you interpretation, ignoring Obama. And a scant few hours after you write that, Mubarak steps down. So I guess that means Mubarak was listening to Obama? No, no, of course not. Now we're back to Muslim Brotherhood and Israel fear-mongering. Must suck to get up in the morning.

Posted by: willows1 | February 11, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: willows1

Jennifer has better luck with lighter fare.

Posted by: rcaruth | February 11, 2011 12:14 PM | Report abuse

rcauth - It has nothing to do with luck. It's taking an issue. Any issue. And figuring out how Obama is wrong on that issue. Even if it means directly contradicting your position on an analogous issue. I can admit that there was a lot of this by the Left when Bush was in office. But somehow this seems more obvious and self-serving.

Now, if Jennifer wrote a series of articles stating that Obama should unequivocally be on the side of Mubarak because he is vital to Israel's security and she fears the Muslim Brotherhood, then that would be one thing. I would disagree, but I could understand where she's coming from. But it has been obvious to anyone watching that Mubarak wasn't going to weather this. So she couldn't take that position because of the volume of resulting egg on face. So instead she seeks this middle ground where she looks at what Obama is doing and then finds a way to criticize it without really taking a position. It is in the same genre as "too cute by half" except with this reactionary unwillingness underlying the whole thing.

Posted by: willows1 | February 11, 2011 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Well, Kissinger - very recently - stated that the departure of Mubarak is merely Act One, Scene One. He advised Obama (through the press) not to be tempted to give soundbites so often. But he also sympathized with Obama because when he was in charge of American foreign policy, under Nixon, in the 1960's, he did not have to contend with the ubiquitous Internet 7/24.

Another way to justify going easy on Obama, is to look at the other heads of state, especially the democratic European. Look at France, and Italy, for example. The guys there have trouble with their judiciary, and sexual scandal, yet they proceed to advise Mubarak, or Egypt, on what to do between now and his resignation in September.

Mubarak is infamously known to be especially suborn; he even once stated that he has a "Ph. D. in stubbornness." Yet for him to have given up so much for the sake of Egypt is incredible. It would be extremely unjust, for the land of the Pharaoh's, which assassinated Mubarak's predecessor Sadat, which put Mubarak in office, to make him the scapegoat of what Egypt itself produced. Napoleon eventually crowned himself emperor, and proceeded to conquer the world (even Egypt). But he's been turned into a Hero (he did spread the Enlightenment of the French Revolution with the conquests of his armies). It would be highly symbolic, and beneficial for Egyptian reconciliation to permit Mubarak to save face. General McArthur had to be put in his place by our President Truman after WWII; but it was McArthur who was responsible for letting Japan retain it's Emperor. I hate to imagine the situation for the US, or Japan, if the Emperor of Japan had been humiliated and forced from his throne.

I hope that Egyptians find it in their hearts to be generous to Mubarak by reminding themselves of his early days when he was a war hero and assumed office due to assassination; otherwise, their may merely be a bloody immediate redistribution of wealth from the "haves" to the "have not's." Another problem of the Russian revolution was that it lost the benefits of the skills of the Middle Class when these lost their status, privileges, property, and fled. I can anticipate (without certainty, of course) of middle class Egyptians fleeing as refugees and political asylum seekers if Mubarak resigns forthwith. That may redistribute the wealth to the poorer Egyptians; but it would also deprive Egypt of the talented workforce and entrepreneurs which are necessary for a country to thrive economically, as well as politically.

Posted by: Ludvikus | February 11, 2011 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Everyone is now invited to copy and past Jennifer's "Dewey Defeats Truman" post into every future post in which she attempts to string some coherent words together on the Middle East.

Posted by: oldabandonedbeachhouse | February 11, 2011 12:31 PM | Report abuse

"What % of all our presidents have been minor leaguers or rank amateurs when it comes to foreign policy?"

RCAR, I'm not sure I can give you a % figure, but Obama seems especially naive to me. It might seem an anecdotally small thing, but when the Commander In Chief says corpse-man rather than corpseman, there's a problem. Obama knew almost nothing about the military and kind of by extension, also knows little about foreign policy. He came in interested only in domestic policy.

Recent examples of Presidents that had their head on straight for foreign policy:

Bush 43 (learned quick after 9/11)
Bush 41 (despite his "realist" impulses)
Reagan (simply principled)
Nixon (despite his other shortcomings)
Eisenhower (former general)
Truman (principled)
FDR (obvious reasons)

Recent examples of Presidents that do/did not have their heads on straight for foreign policy:

Obama (naive, or simply uninterested)
Carter (foolhardy)
LBJ (micromanager)

For "other":

Clinton (no real test during his tenure)
Ford (too brief a stay at 1600 Penn Ave)

I'm sure I'll get some disagreements here, but I wanted to give you something at least if I couldn't give you a solid answer to your question.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | February 11, 2011 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Boy. Some people are going to feel real stupid after what they wrote.

oldabandonedbeachhouse : You got that right. I'm going to bookmark this article and every time she writes an article this will be posted to remind her of her stupidity.

Posted by: langs13 | February 11, 2011 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: willows1

Jennifer also uses the techniques that evolved via Communist(Trotskyite) propaganda which involves a lot of lying with repetition. Her ism is Exceptionalism which is "marketed" in the same manner as communism,as an international utopian secular religion.

Posted by: rcaruth | February 11, 2011 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Mubarak has transferred some authority to his vice president, but he's not heeding the administration's call to move off stage, and he certainly isn't leaving promptly as the protesters demand.

Well one thing we can say is that if you were the president you would be completely inept and ineffective.

I know you must feel like real Republican today.

Totally stupid and ignorant of the facts.

I swear if Republicans had facts they wouldn't be Republicans.

Posted by: langs13 | February 11, 2011 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Ritchie/Just some quick impressions without intending to be thorough.

(1)Bush 43/apostle of preemptive war- did what Cheney told him too/continued to mishandle the post USSR opportunity
(2)Bush 41/useless war over Kuwait/mishandled the post USSR opportunity
(3)Reagan/allowed Japan access to our markets without reciprocal agreements:but was excellent at not wasting lives in stupid wars.
(4)Eisenhower/mishandled Democratic Iran,and Vietnam,paving the way for more screwups in SE Asia;excellent in not wasting lives in stupid wars
(5)Truman/squandered 50000 American lives for a nation that is hostile to us an an economic competitor,
(6)Nixon/squandered thousands of American lives during the Decent Interval knowing Vietnam War was lost. Gave China a quick start to become a major economic.political,military competitor.
(7)FDR,played into Stalin's hands by helping him defeat Germany,helped hand east Europe from Hitler to Stalin,thanks FDR
(8)LBJ/no common sense for war or foreign policy/wasted lots of American lives
(9)Carter-did you want him to declare war on Iran?
(10)Obama-do you want him to wage war on Iran?

Posted by: rcaruth | February 11, 2011 1:16 PM | Report abuse

RitchieEmmons: You need to leave that Fox Crack alone.

Bush 43- Made the worst foreign policy decision in America's history. The IRAQ war. Invaded a country and started a Civil war because he had no idea what he was getting into. Iraq is now controlled by Iran.

Fought a war in Afghanistan with no way to win and still has us stuck there.

Bush 41. Former friend of Saddam Hussein.
Allowed Saddam to remain in power after Kuwait which led to Saddam killing million of his own people with the weapons He and Reagan sold him.

Reagan. Sold weapons to Iran and Iraq. Considered Bin Laden a freedom fighter.

Reagan's foreign policy can be summed up this way.

If Reagan considered them a friend they always turned out to be America's enemy.

We are still fighting all of Reagan's old friends.

Your stupidity and ignorance is stunning. Even for a republican.

Posted by: langs13 | February 11, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

RitchieEmmons: Let's not forget it was Nixon's actions which led to the revolution in Iran. We had a chance to turn the government over to the moderates but he choose to keep the Shah in power.

Clinton stopped a civil war. He didn't start one and showed the world how to use the UN for good. Which is everything Bush 43 didn't do.

Like I always say. If republicans had facts you wouldn't be a republican.

See Jennifer Rubin.

Posted by: langs13 | February 11, 2011 1:27 PM | Report abuse

RCAR, How did I know you would disagree with me? Some things never change, do they?? You seem like an isolationist. Is there any past war that you support?

langs13, You simply cannot be taken seriously.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | February 11, 2011 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Is there any past war that you support?

Absolutely,The War Against Japan*. I would have taken a good look at Europe after Japan was defeated,and see what needed to be done. I know that Germany declared war on us,but,in fact,that was a political declaration. There wasn't anything they could have done to us. German,both in WW1&2,was absolutely none of our business if looked at in terms of our national survival.
*It's unfortunate that we had to use Japan as the guinea pig for the A Bombs,that's going to be bad PR forever. BTW,James Cameron's next movie is about Hiroshima/Nagasaki

Posted by: rcaruth | February 11, 2011 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Yes, the President pronounced it corpse-man. His staff let him down hard on that; who's the Karl Rove of the current WH? But speaking from a bookworm's perspective, let's give him a pass. As a child I thought 'misled' was pronounced 'meye-zled', until I heard it spoken! Also, that book about the 'Poo-blo' Indians. And then there was the high school speech talking about the Viennese Sigmund 'Frood'. :-)

Posted by: aardunza | February 11, 2011 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Listening to the speech now, "allow this generation to take flight." Froodian slip?

Posted by: aardunza | February 11, 2011 3:09 PM | Report abuse

RCAR, naturally I'll disagree with you about wars that were good/bad. As for the A-bomb being bad PR, it's only bad PR in regards to those who will find any reason to hate us anyway (Islamists). Anyone that's willing to be level headed about it will realize that it was in the effort to SAVE lives that Truman dropped the bomb(s). Even the Japanese don't hate us for it.

I didn't know that Cameron had a new movie coming out. He's been brilliant at times (Terminator, Aliens). However, I have a sinking feeling that this new movie will be a crappy one like Avatar. Avatar was great visually, but I would have been happy watching it on the big screen with my ipod in my ears.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | February 11, 2011 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Listening to the speech, heard "will allow this generation to take flight." Froodian slip?

Posted by: aardunza | February 11, 2011 3:14 PM | Report abuse

When RitchieEmmons posted exactly with me, I got the "Cannot remove method" java error message, and rewrote and resubmitted the silly post!

Posted by: aardunza | February 11, 2011 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I knew, just knew, that if I headed over to Right Turn, that I'd find a post blasting the administration for incompetence because of Mubarak's failure to resign yesterday. And, of course, that egg on your face looks oh so fetching.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | February 11, 2011 3:40 PM | Report abuse

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