The Obama administration seemed determined Wednesday to put as much daylight as possible between Mr. Obama and Mr. Mubarak, once considered an unshakable American supporter in a tumultuous region, with Mr. Gibbs once again raising the specter of a cutoff of American aid to the Mubarak government if the Egyptian president failed to bend.
If Hosni Mubarak and his thugs want to terrorize the people of Egypt why should U.S. citizens pay for it? We give over $1-billion every year that goes directly to the Egyptian military. The same military which disappeared from the streets conveniently just before Mubarak’s paid thugs rampaged through Tahrir Square on camels and horses trampling peaceful demonstrators underfoot, not to mention shootings which left at least three dead today and hundreds wounded.
If the Egyptian military and those who command it can’t control their country and do their jobs, what are we paying them for? Just today, Robert Gibbs said that the administration would consider freezing aid as a next step. Well the time has come for next steps. Cut the aid now. There is only one way to get to a dictator or an alcoholic: cut him off.
Until Mubarak goes and a transitional government is appointed leading to free, fair elections for a new president and parliament, Egypt shouldn’t get another dime. This is a no-brainer. It should be implemented right now. There are no down sides that I can see, and it will save Egyptian lives plus win a few points in the Arab world, where we’re sorely in need of them. If we don’t get on the right side of history here, history will shunt us aside and look for those who were and give them the credit and glory.
The Times story also pointed to another important consideration for U.S. policy:
“There’s part of this that’s dangerous to Al Qaeda,” said Juan Zarate of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who was a top counterterrorism official during George W. Bush’s administration. “If the street protests lead to a peaceful, pluralistic transition, that does huge damage to the Al Qaeda narrative,” he said.
This goes with what I wrote yesterday, a Turkish-style government in Egypt with a strong Islamist component would run completely counter to the Al Qaeda narrative. It would show both the Arab and western worlds that it is possible for Muslim nations to have free elections, tolerate diversity including religious diversity (Egypt has an important Coptic community), and still integrate Islam into the political mix.
The Israel lobby is now trying to plant its own message into the mix. It runs like this: if you desert Mubarak, instead of mullahs in Teheran you’ll get them in Tahrir as well. Here is Bibi himself on that note:
“Our real fear is of a situation that could develop … and which has already developed in several countries including Iran itself — repressive regimes of radical Islam,” said Netanyahu.
Netanyahu continued, adding that although the protests may not be motivated by religious extremism, “in a situation of chaos, an organized Islamist body can seize control of a country. It happened in Iran. It happened in other instances”.
There is almost nothing in common between Iran in 1979 and Egypt in 2011. There is no charismatic Islamist leader like Ayatollah Khomeini waiting to take power from the Shah. In fact, while the Muslim Brotherhood is a formidable force inside Egypt, so far it has remained very much behind the scenes of the current wave of unrest. It has put forward no leaders who could rally the masses for an Islamic republic like the one that captured Iran. As I wrote above, the comparison you will never hear from the Lobby is to Turkey, which if there is any comparison to be made appears more reasonable.
Tom Friedman quotes this unintentionally ironic comment from Israeli political analyst Mark Heller:
“Everything that once anchored our world is now unmoored,” remarked Mark Heller, a Tel Aviv University strategist. “And it is happening right at a moment when nuclearization of the region hangs in the air.”
Really. I thought nuclearization of the region hung in the air around 1967 when Israel first is rumored to have put together a crude doomsday nuclear bomb to use if the Arabs overwhelming Israel’s defenses. Why when Iran may (or may not) be contemplating a nuclear weapon, is that when the danger of nuclearization suddenly hangs in the air? Might there be just a whiff of hypocrisy hanging in the air as well?
Tom as usual just plain gets under my skin with his patronizing barely concealed racist ignorance against the Arab world:
What the turmoil in Egypt also demonstrates is how much Israel is surrounded by a huge population of young Arabs and Muslims who have been living outside of history — insulated by oil and autocracy from the great global trends. But that’s over.
…Today, I believe President Obama should put his own peace plan on the table, bridging the Israeli and Palestinian positions, and demand that the two sides negotiate on it without any preconditions. It is vital for Israel’s future — at a time when there is already a global campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state — that it disentangle itself from the Arabs’ story as much as possible. There is a huge storm coming, Israel. Get out of the way.
This is the very Orientalist nonsense Edward Said railed against and rightly so. Who says Arabs are living outside history? Where are they living: on Mars? What are they if not human beings? Arabs are not insulated from global trends. In fact, the Middle East is one HUGE global trend. For Friedman to say this indicates this it is HE who is living outside global trends and history.
Further, his notion that Israel must “disentangle” itself the Arabs’ story is precisely wrong. Israel, unless it wants to move somewhere north of Midtown (Manhattan that is) will be deeply entangled with the Middle East and those who live there. To say Israel should separate itself indicates Israel should live as if it’s somewhere else or perhaps even another planet.
Does Tom forget the Zionist mantra that the Jewish nationalist movement arose to return Jews to the world and to history from which they’d been alienated by centuries of impoverishment, dispossession and anti-Semitism? It seems to me that the N.Y. Times pundit is calling for a return to Jews as mandarins, as Other, as outside of history, or at least Middle Eastern history. This would not just be foolish and divorced from reality, it would also be disastrous for Israel, a small nation dependent on the kindness of allies for its long-term existence. Israel needs to make friends, not lose them. It needs to engage with the Middle East, not disengage.
The more and longer I read Tom Friedman, the more unmoored he appears to be intellectually and politically from anything resembling reasonableness or clarity.
I’ve created a new Facebook group which I hope you’ll join and tell your friends about. 1,000 members might send a message to an overly cautious Barack Obama to act.
For up to the minute blogging of the Egyptian Revolution, you can follow UW Prof. Ellis Goldberg’s NisralNasr, and his daily reports on KUOW every afternoon direct from Cairo, where he’s fortuitously on sabbatical (how many times in an academic’s life does something like this happen to them?).