Thursday, January 27, 2011

Protests Escalate in Egypt — U.S. Stands by in Realpolitik Mode

At Foreign Policy, "Egypt's Struggle for Freedom: Egyptians are taking to the streets to demand their rights. Shame on America if it stands in the way." Yeah. Shame. But typical of this administration's foreign policy. See Christian Science Monitor, "Joe Biden says Egypt's Mubarak no dictator, he shouldn't step down..." (Via Memeorandum.) And at New York Times, "Cables Show Delicate U.S. Dealings With Egypt’s Leaders":

It was Hillary Rodham Clinton’s first meeting as secretary of state with President Hosni Mubarak, in March 2009, and the Egyptians had an odd request: Mrs. Clinton should not thank Mr. Mubarak for releasing an opposition leader from prison because he was ill.

In fact, a confidential diplomatic cable signed by the American ambassador to Egypt, Margaret Scobey, advised Mrs. Clinton to avoid even mentioning the name of the man, Ayman Nour, even though his imprisonment in 2005 had been condemned worldwide, not least by the Bush administration.

The cable is among a trove of dispatches made public by the antisecrecy group WikiLeaks that paint a vivid picture of the delicate dealings between the United States and Egypt, its staunchest Arab ally. They show in detail how diplomats repeatedly raised concerns with Egyptian officials about jailed dissidents and bloggers, and kept tabs on reports of torture by the police.

But they also reveal that relations with Mr. Mubarak warmed up because President Obama played down the public “name and shame” approach of the Bush administration. A cable prepared for a visit by Gen. David H. Petraeus in 2009 said the United States, while blunt in private, now avoided “the public confrontations that had become routine over the past several years.”

This balancing of private pressure with strong public support for Mr. Mubarak has become increasingly tenuous in recent days. Throngs of angry Egyptians have taken to the streets and the White House, worried about being identified with a reviled regime, has challenged the president publicly.

It's a delicate business all around, but it's particularly interesting that this administration is the unrivaled champion of reactionary forces in the Middle East. Notice the various lines of Obama's FUBAR foreign policy. The administration has dropped "name and shame" against Arab dictatorships while browbeating Israel, the only democracy in the region (notwithstanding Iraq). Amazing. We help keep in power authoritarian regimes in Egypt and Iran, while strengthening the same forces of reaction against the one state standing as the West's bulwark against Islamist fanaticism. I'm shaking my head at this, but again, international affairs is a nasty business. And the Obama team's obviously working against a steep learning curve.

And check The Lede for excellent coverage.