Friday, January 28, 2011

An Egyptian Street Scene

Cairo streets are now looking like the streets of Tehran the summer before last:



We don’t know any more about how this will play out now than we knew at a comparable stage of the Iranian uprising. But you can't miss the difference in the administration’s response.

Recall that its reaction to brutal repression in the streets in Tehran was a strategic silence that it managed to maintain even as it grew more awkward by the day. Say what you will about the wisdom of not taking sides between the Iranian demonstrators and the regime, but the fact that the administration managed to maintain its neutrality testified to the self-discipline with which it was implementing its strategy of engagement with hostile regimes. The administration’s message may have been morally unsatisfying, but it wasn’t mixed.  And one thing in particular that it scrupulously avoided saying was that the legitimacy of the Iranian regime and the popular protests against it had anything with to do with American national interests.

Compare what Joe Biden’s saying about Egypt:
“Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things. And he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interest in the region, the Middle East peace efforts; the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing relationship with – with Israel. … I would not refer to him as a dictator.”
Granted, this could be another one of Biden’s frolic and detours, but give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he’s speaking for the administration. Is it really wise for it to be saying that Mubarak’s legitimacy is a function of his readiness to serve our geo-political interests?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think you are giving Biden way too much benefit of the doubt. I think your suspicion was correct the first time: frolic and detour. I suspect that this administration will keep quiet again - not out of self-discipline - but out of not knowing what to do or say. There is no ideology.