Comme le dit le Saint Coran, « Crains Dieu et dis toujours la vérité. Barack Hussein Obama (Prêche du Caire)
Je suis venu chercher un nouveau commencement entre les Etats-Unis et les musulmans du monde entier, qui se fonde sur un intérêt et un respect mutuels ; qui se fonde sur le fait que l’Amérique et l’islam ne sont pas exclusifs l’un de l’autre et ne sont pas voués à se faire concurrence. Au lieu de cela, ils se chevauchent et partagent des principes communs : justice et progrès ; tolérance et dignité de tous les êtres humains. Je fais cela en ayant conscience que le changement ne peut pas s’effectuer en un jour. Un discours seul ne peut éradiquer des années de méfiance. Et je n’ai pas non plus de réponse immédiate à toutes les questions complexes qui nous ont amenés au point où nous sommes. Mais je suis convaincu que pour avancer, nous devons dire ouvertement ce que nous avons sur le cœur et que, trop souvent, nous ne disons que derrière des portes fermées. Il doit y avoir un effort soutenu pour s’écouter, apprendre l’un de l’autre et chercher des terrains d’entente. Comme le dit le sait Coran ; « Sois conscient de Dieu et dis toujours la vérité. » C’est ce que je me propose de faire : dire la vérité du mieux que je peux, humble devant la tâche qui nous attend, et ferme dans ma croyance que les intérêts que nous partageons en tant qu’êtres humains sont beaucoup plus forts que les forces qui nous séparent. (…) Je sais qu’il y a eu des controverses sur la promotion de la démocratie, pour une grande part en relation avec la guerre en Irak. Mais je serai très clair : aucune nation ne peut imposer à une autre un système de gouvernement. Mais cela ne minore pas mon engagement envers les gouvernements qui reflètent la volonté de leur peuple. Chaque nation fait vivre ce principe à sa manière, enracinée dans ses traditions. L’Amérique ne prétend pas savoir ce qui est bon pour tout le monde. Mais je pense, sans aucune concession possible, que les gens souhaitent certaines choses : la possibilité de donner son avis sur la façon dont on est gouverné ; la confiance en l’Etat de droit et une administration de la justice égale pour tous ; un gouvernement transparent qui ne vole pas son peuple ; la liberté de choisir son style de vie. Ce ne sont pas seulement des idées américaines mais des droits de l’homme, et c’est pourquoi nous les soutiendrons partout. Il n’existe pas de ligne droite pour réaliser cette promesse. Mais cela au moins est certain : les gouvernements qui protègent ces droits sont finalement plus stables, plus sûrs et réussissent mieux. La répression des idées ne réussit jamais à les faire disparaître. L’Amérique respecte le droit de toutes les voix pacifiques et respectueuses de la loi à se faire entendre partout dans le monde, même si nous sommes en désaccord avec elles. Et nous ferons bon accueil à tout gouvernement élu et pacifique, s’il gouverne en respectant son peuple. Ce dernier point est important car certains ne défendent la démocratie que lorsqu’ils n’ont pas le pouvoir. Une fois au pouvoir, ils répriment impitoyablement les droits des autres. Quel que soit l’endroit du monde, le gouvernement du peuple et par le peuple implique des règles simples pour ceux qui exercent le pouvoir : il faut l’exercer par le consentement et non par la coercition, respecter les droits des minorités, placer les intérêts du peuple et les processus légitimes du processus politique au-dessus de votre parti. Sans ces ingrédients, les seules élections ne font pas une vraie démocratie. Barack Hussein Obama (Le Caire, juin 2009)
En s’adressant au « monde musulman » depuis le Caire, Obama apporte de la crédibilité aux Frères Musulmans, au Hamas, et au reste des partisans de l’Islamisme politique, qui, justement, veulent que l’on s’adresse aux populations arabes comme si elles étaient un même peuple, défini par la religion musulmane – en contradiction avec des nationalistes tels que Moubarak. Plutôt que de renforcer un allié loyal, le discours d’Obama sape son autorité sur son propre territoire, ce qui est une proposition où tout le monde est perdant. David Goldman
Il n’y a aucune garantie qu’un clair soutien américain aurait modifié l’issue de la lutte entre l’autocratie et la liberté en Iran. Mais il n’en restera pas moins dans la grande geste de la liberté qu’au moment où la Perse s’est soulevée à l’été 2009, le responsable de la puissance américaine s’est dérobé et qu’un président si fier de son éloquence n’a même pas réussi à trouver les mots pour faire savoir aux forces de la liberté qu’il avait compris les sources de leur révolte.Fouad Ajami
There was no mention at all that at that moment democratic dissidents were imprisoned, that Mubarak had put in prison the leading [opposition] candidate in the past election. Sharansky (on Obama’s June 2009 Cairo address)
The statements from the White House are improving with every day, especially in comparison with its catastrophic statements at the time of the Iranian revolution [in 2009]. (…) maybe one of the biggest betrayals of people’s freedom in modern history. . . . At the moment when millions were deciding whether to go to the barricades, the leader of the free world said ‘For us, the most important thing is engagement with the regime, so we don’t want a change of regime.’ Compared to this, there is very big progress [today]. Nathan Sharansky
Only when the basic institutions that protect a free society are firmly in place—such as a free press, the rule of law, independent courts, political parties—can free elections be held. Sharansky
So what’s the matter with Egypt? The same thing that is the matter with most of the modern Middle East: in the post-industrial world, its hundreds of millions now are vicariously exposed to the affluence and freedom of the West via satellite television, cell phones, the internet, DVDs, and social networks. And they become angry that, in contrast to what they see and hear from abroad, their own lives are unusually miserable in the most elemental sense. (…) That is, a century after the onset of modern waste treatment science, many of the cities in the Middle East smell of raw sewage. A century after we learned about microbes and disease, the water in places like Cairo is undrinkable from the tap. Six decades after the knowledge of treating infectious disease, millions in the Middle East suffer chronic pain and suffer from maladies that are easily addressed in the West. And they have about as much freedom as the Chinese, but without either the affluence or the confidence. That the Gulf and parts of North Africa are awash in oil and gas, at a time of both near record prices and indigenous control of national oil treasures, makes the ensuing poverty all the more insulting. All this has been true for forty years, but, again, instant global communications have brought the reality home to the miserable of the Middle East in a way state-run newspapers and state-censored television never could even had they wished. In reaction, amid this volatile new communications revolution, the Saddams, the Mubaraks, the Saudi royals, the North African strongmen, and all the other « kings » and « fathers » and « leaders » found an effective enough antidote: The Jews were behind all sorts of plots to emasculate Arab Muslims. And the United States and, to a lesser extent, Great Britain were stealing precious resources that robbed proud Middle Easterners of their heritage and future. Better yet, there was always a Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Oliver Stone, or, for the more high-brow, a Jimmy Carter to offer a useful exegesis of American conspiracy, oil-mongery, or Zionist infiltration into the West Wing that « proved » Middle East misery was most certainly not self-induced. Victor Davis Hanson
A l’heure où, après plus de 2 semaines de manifestations comme d’un certain abandon de sa propre armée, le kleptocrate qui tenait lieu jusqu’ici de président aux Egyptiens vient de gâcher une nouvelle occasion de racheter trois décennies de confiscation du pouvoir …
Et où, pendant qu’une Administation Obama plus que jamais naviguant à vue fait à nouveau la preuve de son ineptitude, la gauche américaine se voit contrainte de reconnaitre la justesse de l’analyse de Bush concernant le Moyen-Orient suite aux attentats du 11/9 et de la mise à pied forcée de Saddam …
Importante remise des pendules à l’heure par l’ex-dissident soviétique et ex-député israélien Nathan Sharansky qui avait inspiré la doctrine Bush de démocratisation du Moyen-Orient.
Qui, sans négliger les limites de l’engagement démocratique de l’Administration Bush (largement explicable à une époque où l’échec en Irak était prédit par tous) comme les risques, en une Egypte bien loin de posséder la culture démocratique nécessaire, d’un scénario à la Gaza qui verrait le pouvoir confisqué par les mêmes Frères musulmans.
A le mérite de rappeler les insuffisances de son successeur, notamment le honteux abandon du peuple iranien au printemps 2009 …
A survivor of nine years in the Soviet Gulag, Natan Sharansky believes that liberalism can take root in Egypt—if the free world supports its transition
February 5, 2011
‘If you want a glimpse of how I think about foreign policy, read Natan Sharansky’s book, ‘The Case for Democracy.' » With that comment in 2005, George W. Bush created a best seller, impelling hordes of statesmen, policy wonks and journalists to decode this Rosetta Stone of the « freedom agenda. »
In the book, Mr. Sharansky argues that all people, in all cultures, want to live in freedom; that all dictatorships are inherently unstable and therefore threaten the security of other countries; and that Western powers can and should influence how free other countries are. Rarely have these arguments been dramatized as during the past weeks—in Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen and especially Egypt. So late Wednesday night I interviewed Mr. Sharansky to hear his explanation of our current revolutionary moment.
« The reason people are going to the streets and making revolution is their desire not to live in a fear society, » Mr. Sharansky says. In his taxonomy, the world is divided between « fear societies » and « free societies, » with the difference between them determinable by what he calls a « town square test »: Are the people in a given society free to stand in their town square and express their opinions without fear of arrest or physical harm? The answer in Tunisia and Egypt, of course, has long been « no »—as it was in the Soviet bloc countries that faced popular revolutions in 1989.
The comparison of today’s events with 1989 is a common one, but for Mr. Sharansky it is personal. He was born in 1948 in Donetsk (then called Stalino), Ukraine, and in the 1970s and 1980s he was one of the most famous dissidents in the Soviet Union—first as an aide to the nuclear physicist-turned-human rights activist Andrei Sakharov, then as a champion for the rights of Soviet Jews like himself to emigrate. His outspoken advocacy landed him in the Soviet Gulag for nine years (including 200 days on hunger strike).
Mr. Sharansky was released from prison in 1986, after his wife Avital’s tireless campaigning earned his case international renown and the strong support of President Ronald Reagan. He moved to Israel, where he eventually entered politics and served until 2006 in various ministerial posts and in the parliament. Throughout, he preached and wrote about, as his book’s subtitle puts it, « the power of freedom to overcome tyranny and terror. »
This idea is the animating feature of a worldview that bucks much conventional wisdom. Uprisings like Tunisia’s and Egypt’s, he says, make « specialists—Sovietologists, Arabists—say ‘Who could have thought only two weeks ago that this will happen?' » But « look at what Middle Eastern democratic dissidents were saying for all these years about the weakness of these regimes from the inside, » and you won’t be surprised when they topple, he says.
And yet policy makers from Washington to Tel Aviv have seemingly been in shock. Many of them—on the right and the left—look upon the demise of Hosni Mubarak and the potential rise of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood with dread.
« Why is there such a big danger that if now there will be free choice for Egyptians, then the Muslim Brotherhood can rise to power? » Mr. Sharansky asks. « Because they are the only organized force which exists in addition to Mubarak’s regime. » Mr. Mubarak quashed almost all political dissent, with the general acquiescence of his American patrons. But he couldn’t stop the Brotherhood from spreading its message in mosques. Meanwhile, he used the Brotherhood as a bogeyman, telling the U.S. that only he stood between radical Islamists and the seat of power.
It worked. Mr. Sharansky says that in a 2007 meeting in Prague, President Bush told him that the U.S. supports Mr. Mubarak—to the tune of nearly $2 billion in annual aid—because if it didn’t, the Brotherhood would take over Egypt.
For all his good intentions and pro-democracy rhetoric, Mr. Bush was inconsistent in practice. By Mr. Sharansky’s calculus, simply propping up Mr. Mubarak’s fear society would make it more likely, not less, that radicals would gradually become the only viable opposition and be best-positioned to gain power when the regime inevitably fell. And so it is today, as the Mubarak regime teeters.
Still, Mr. Sharansky finds reason for optimism. While recognizing common Israeli fears that Mr. Mubarak’s ouster could give Hamas more power in and around Gaza and endanger the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, he doesn’t expect the security balance to change much. As he wrote in « The Case for Democracy, » over the past 30 years Israel’s « border with Syria, with whom we do not have a peace treaty, has been just as quiet, and [I] suggest that Israeli deterrence is responsible for both. »
Mr. Sharansky points out that Mr. Mubarak is no great man of peace. Indeed, since 1979, Egyptians’ « hatred toward Israel only grew. . . . Egypt became one of the world centers of anti-Semitism. » That’s because all dictators must cultivate external enemies in order to maintain their grip on power. So even when Mr. Mubarak « lost Israel as an enemy, he continued to need Jews as the enemy. »
Mr. Sharansky says the recent uprisings prove his fundamental contentions « that there are limits to how much you can control people by fear, » and that all people, regardless of religion or culture, desire freedom. « That’s a very powerful universal message. It was very powerful when the Iron Curtain exploded, and it’s as powerful today, » he says.
He has a prescription for what should happen next. First, he says there’s no justification for Mr. Mubarak staying in place. « What would that mean? . . . He could continue for another few months or for another year, until [Egypt] explodes with more hatred toward America and Israel and the free world. »
Second, U.S. policy should shift from its focus on illusory « stability » toward « linkage »—an approach that successfully pressured the Soviet Union. That means linking U.S. aid to Egypt’s progress in developing the institutions of a free society.
If he were a U.S. senator, Mr. Sharansky says, he would immediately introduce a law to continue support to Egypt on condition that « 20% of all this money goes to strengthening and developing democratic institutions. And the money cannot be controlled by the Egyptian government. » Ideally his measure would kick in as soon as possible, so that it can affect the incentives of any Egyptian transitional government established to rule until September, when a presidential election is scheduled.
The model for such linkage is the 1974 Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which forced the Soviet Union to allow Jewish emigration or lose the economically-valuable « Most Favored Nation » trade designation. But Jackson-Vanik has been controversial ever since its enactment 35 years ago, and Washington has shown little willingness to deploy linkage since.
But Mr. Sharansky holds out hope, partly because on Egypt « the statements from the White House are improving with every day, especially in comparison with its catastrophic statements at the time of the Iranian revolution [in 2009]. » By his reckoning, the Obama administration’s position during the recent Iranian protests was « maybe one of the biggest betrayals of people’s freedom in modern history. . . . At the moment when millions were deciding whether to go to the barricades, the leader of the free world said ‘For us, the most important thing is engagement with the regime, so we don’t want a change of regime.’ Compared to this, there is very big progress [today]. »
Inconsistency is par for the course in this field. « From time to time, » Mr. Sharansky says of the George W. Bush administration, « America was giving lectures about democracy. » Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave a strong address in Cairo in 2005. And in 2002, by threatening to withhold $130 million in aid to Egypt, the administration successfully pressured Mr. Mubarak to release the sociologist and democracy activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim from prison. In their final years, however, administration officials reverted to bureaucratic form and relaxed their pressure drastically.
President Obama relaxed it even further, Mr. Sharansky notes, inserting only vague language about democracy into his June 2009 address in Cairo. « There was no mention at all that at that moment democratic dissidents were imprisoned, that Mubarak had put in prison the leading [opposition] candidate in the past election, » Ayman Nour.
Even if the U.S. embraces linkage, Egypt’s September election could be quite problematic. « Only when the basic institutions that protect a free society are firmly in place—such as a free press, the rule of law, independent courts, political parties—can free elections be held, » Mr. Sharansky wrote in « The Case for Democracy. » In Egypt, those « free, developed institutions, » he tells me, « will not be developed by September. »
What can develop over the next eight months, Mr. Sharansky says, is a U.S. policy making clear that « whoever is elected cannot continue to survive—he cannot continue to rely on the assistance of the free world in defense, economics, anything—if democratic reforms are not continued and if democratic institutions are not built. » After several years of such democracy-building, he says, when dissidents like Mr. Ibrahim enjoy the ability to build institutions like trade unions and women’s organizations, « then in a few years you’ll have a different country, and you can have really free elections. »
For this to happen, « there must be consistent policy in the free world, » says Mr. Sharansky. That means « no compromise for the sake of stability with those who will come to power—and who, inevitably, if they have the opportunity to lead as dictators, will try to lead as dictators. »
« There is a real chance now, » he says. « And the fact that it happened with the country which has the [second-] biggest level of assistance from the United States makes this chance for success even bigger if the leaders of the free world—and first of all the United States of America—play it right. »
What shouldn’t happen is a repeat of the 2006 election in Gaza, when Hamas won office without demonstrating any commitment to democracy, and Palestinian society had no checks in place to prevent the outcome from being one man, one vote, one time. But the Gaza scenario seems unlikely in Egypt, says Mr. Sharansky.
« Hamas really used a unique opportunity. First of all, there was the policy of Yasser Arafat, who really turned the daily life of Palestinians into a mafia [environment] with racket money paid by all the population to the leaders. That’s why you saw when there were elections, many Christian villages like Taiba were voting for Hamas. Why is a Christian village voting for Islamic fundamentalists? Because they were like the Magnificent Seven, saving the village from the mafia. . . . Second, geographically, it was like there was a special closed area, Gaza, which was brought [to Hamas] on a plate by us. »
So can the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt replicate Hamas’s electoral coup in Gaza? « Only in one case: if the systematic practice of keeping people under dictatorship—so the dictatorship becomes more and more cruel against any dissident thinking— continues and strengthens. Then it’ll unite people more and more around the only force which can resist this and get military and organizational and financial support: the Muslim Brothers. . . .
« That’s why I’m saying we must be happy that [Egypt’s uprising] happened now and not a few years later because then the Muslim Brothers would be even more strong. . . . This revolt happened when the Muslim brothers are not as strong as Hamas was. »
With Cairo’s streets still aflame, the immediate question is how far Mr. Mubarak will go to maintain his rule—how many police trucks will run down street protesters, how many plainclothes thugs will hunt down Western journalists in their hotel rooms. Beyond that, the question is whether over time Egypt will come to pass the town square test. « There is a good chance, » says Mr. Sharansky, « but a lot depends. Some Egyptians are now working for this. The thing is whether the free world will become a partner in this work. »
Victor Davis Hanson
February 2, 2011
I suppose the West currently feels like someone watching a train approaching an abyss without much insight into how to prevent the train from going over the cliff. Our daily-evolving strategy apparently hinges on proper triangulation, shifting from prodding Mubarak to reform to calling on protesters to form a democratic government as Mubarak appears to weaken, all while allowing some leeway should he make a remarkable recovery.
I hope we are saving our condemnation and diplomatic powder for even the hint of an Islamic manipulation of the chaos. However, after the president’s Al Arabiya interview, his silence over Tehran in spring 2009, and the Cairo speech — the constant themes being US culpability for Iraq, generic apologies for purported past sins, and America’s under-appreciation of past Islamic brilliance — I fear that far too many in and outside the Middle East are unsure how America would react to an Islamist absorption of the currently popular protest. ‘Oh well, America probably sees these guys as the inheritors of Cordoba, once again doing their part to create another Western Renaissance or Enlightenment.’
In short, at some point soon, we are going to have to come out and express our support for a non-Islamist constitutional state, period — without any Carter-esque talk of « moderate » Islamists.
Victor Davis Hanson
February 3, 2011
In reaction, amid this volatile new communications revolution, the Saddams, the Mubaraks, the Saudi royals, the North African strongmen, and all the other « kings » and « fathers » and « leaders » found an effective enough antidote: The Jews were behind all sorts of plots to emasculate Arab Muslims. And the United States and, to a lesser extent, Great Britain were stealing precious resources that robbed proud Middle Easterners of their heritage and future. Better yet, there was always a Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Oliver Stone, or, for the more high-brow, a Jimmy Carter to offer a useful exegesis of American conspiracy, oil-mongery, or Zionist infiltration into the West Wing that « proved » Middle East misery was most certainly not self-induced.
We know the old Middle East two-step that then followed the party line. A Gaddafi or Saddam or a Saudi prince on the sly turned a blind eye to jihadists, or funded them, or in some ways subsidized them — on the condition that they embodied popular outrage but diverted it from Middle Eastern authoritarians to Americans and Israelis. The more « friendly » and « pro-Western » (and the Saudis and the Pakistanis were the past masters at this) would then come to us, deplore terrorism, promise to crack down on it, but also insist that their own thugocracies and kleptocracies were the only fingers in the dike that held back the flood of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Iranian-like theocracy, etc. Ergo, we were to give money or support or both to those that two-timed us, on the premise that the alternative was surely worse.
And the Response Is?
I think the American response was usually over the decades twofold: One, we were to sigh, « Well, Mubarak’s an SOB but he at least is ours and not sending out terrorists to blow up Americans in Lebanon or Saudi Arabia, and he keeps the peace with Israel. » Two, we were to talk grandly of a meaningless West Bank « peace process. » Since our friendly dictators were terrified of their own, they simultaneously winked at terrorists who went after us rather than them, and blamed Israel for the « tension » in the Middle East (yes, the Jews should be behind the corrupt officials who tried to shake down a poor Tunisian one too many times, driving him to self-conflagration — and the ensuing wildfire into the Middle East). The more we promised to pressure Israel, the more we could ignore the misery of Cairo, and the more a thieving Mubarak could perpetuate it.
Pre-Bush Republican realists usually allowed all this in service to « national security, » as in no repeat of the fall of the shah, or the 1970s oil embargoes, or the near disastrous Yom Kippur War and tardy American logistical effort. Democrats did the above as often, but more cleverly added a multicultural, relativist twist of « who are we to judge other systems and cultures when our own is at fault as well (fill in the race, class, gender blanks)? » No one seemed to wish an Eisenhower 1956 Suez solution of rebuking our allies, standing up for principle — and thereby aiding the likes of Nasser and the USSR, while alienating and humiliating our European friends (unforgotten to this day) and Israel.
The New Realities
So what is the matter with Egypt? Why cannot the above mess just keep on keeping on? A number of newer twists.
1) We are not so sure that Mubarak’s « it is us or the jihadists » is quite operative any more, given the defeat of jihadists in Iraq and the downward spiral in approval of bin Laden. In any case, there seems no Khomeini-like figure on the horizon in the radical Islamist Arab world. And to be one, there would have to be, as in Khomeini’s case in France, lots of Western appeasement and subsidies. After 9/11, not even a France wishes to embrace an Islamist and create another Khomeini. The result is that when Mubarak and Co. threaten us with the Muslim Brotherhood, we are not quite convinced, as in the past, that it will hijack the street as Khomeini once did. Thus in the last week we have gone from Biden’s Mubarak « not a dictator » to an « evolving, » finger-in-the-wind stance — in hopes that the Shah-Banisadr-Khomeini formula is not inevitable (yet in this regard, remember that 160,000 US troops played quite a role in stopping the Iraq possible cycle of Saddam-Allawi-Zarqawi).
2) Iraq changed things, and in subtle and as of yet not easily fathomable fashion. When Reagan shouted at the Berlin Wall, the Soviet Union most surely did not come down for four years. But when it did, in hindsight we can see that such symbolic confrontations, along with the military challenges, insidiously exposed and weakened the corrupt system. When Saddam was routed (had a Middle Eastern thug ever been put on trial?), and the insurrection mostly crushed, and a consensual government in power in Baghdad survived for seven years amid the most unlikely chances for survival, then the Middle East (as the Saudis rightly knew and double-dealed as a result) was not quite the same.
Iran is desperate to strangle a free Iraq, since its nearby free media has a tendency to encourage things like the 2009 uprising across the border. Yet to suggest that Bush unleashed in 2003 a revolutionary chain of events is heretical. In our twisted political calculus, Bush is demonic for speaking out for human rights and removing Saddam, Obama is progressive for ignoring human rights protestors in the streets of Khomeinist Iran.
3) I don’t particularly like Mubarak and will be glad to see him leave, but please spare us the condemnation that we « made » him. We did not. He is a reflection of the pathologies that were outlined above, and would have to be invented had he not existed. He could not have come to power without an underlining culture of tribalism, gender apartheid, religious intolerance, and statism. And he has less blood on his hands than did the once beloved « authentic » Nasser (whose use of poison gas in Yemen provided the revolutionary model for Saddam in Kurdistan and at the time bothered no one in Nasserite Egypt).
4) What’s next? « Finger-in-the-wind » diplomacy may work for a while, but it requires deftness that follows conditions on the street in a nanosecond to avoid appearing purely cynical (a skill beyond Hillary, Biden, and Obama). I think in this bad/worse choice scenario we might as well support supposedly democratic reformers, with the expectation that they could either fail in removing Mubarak or be nudged out by those far worse than Mubarak. Contrary to popular opinion, I think Bush was right to support elections in Gaza « one time » (only of course). The Gazans got what they wanted, we are done with them, and they have to live with the results, happy in their thuggish misery, with a prosperous Israel and better-off West Bank to remind them of their stupidity. All bad, but an honest bad and preferable to the lie that there were thousands of Jeffersonians in Gaza thwarted by the US.
So step back and watch it play out with encouragement for those who oppose both Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood — hoping for the best, expecting the worst.
The early reaction from the tens of thousands of demonstrators in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, however, suggested Egypt’s masses may not be satisfied until Mubarak is out of power, and possibly out of the country.
The Obama administration is drawing increasing fire for its apparent reluctance at times to bid Mubarak adieu:
Nathan Brown, director of Middle East studies at George Washington University, said on CSPAN’s American Journal on Sunday that administration officials « have been shifting positions and calibrating constantly, and it certainly looks as if it’s an administration that’s kind of reeling with the punches. But to be fair to them, what they’re trying to do is react to realities on the ground. »
Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, who has just returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia, tells Newsmax that Obama’s soft-peddling of criticism toward Middle East despots has been « shameful. » « [George W.] Bush was absolutely right on his freedom agenda, » Land said. « He said the only way you’re going to fix this [terrorism] problem is to drain the swamp. … I think Obama’s whole human-rights agenda has been sadly missing. I mean, I know a lot of Democrats who are shocked by how Kissinger-esque it has been. »
Longtime Bush antagonist Maureen Dowd credited Bush in part, saying he « meant well when he tried to start a domino effect of democracy in the Middle East and end the awful hypocrisy of America coddling autocratic rulers. But the way he went about it was naive and wrong. » By contrast Dowd said Obama was « calling around this week to leaders in the region to stanch the uncontrolled surge of democracy in the Arab world. »
The New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier said Obama’s policy of engagement and multicultural globalism has had « the effect of aligning America with regimes and against peoples. » He added, « This was the case with our response to the Iranian rebellion in 2009, and it was the case with our response to the Egyptian opposition until a few hours ago. The striking thing about Barack Obama’s ‘extended hand’ is how utterly irrelevant it is to the epochal events in Egypt, and Tunisia, and Iran, and elsewhere. »
Stephen Carter, a Yale professor and left-leaning author, told The Daily Beast readers that the protests in Egypt prove Obama’s predecessor was right to push for democracy in the Arab world. The foreign-policy establishment largely derided Bush’s democracy push as naïve, but now some observers say it could have given the United States more credibility in the Arab world.
Elliott Abrams, a Bush-era deputy secretary of state, conceded that Bush’s actual policies didn’t always live up to his « freedom agenda » rhetoric. « But the revolt in Tunisia, the gigantic wave of demonstrations in Egypt and the more recent marches in Yemen all make clear that Bush had it right — and that the Obama administration’s abandonment of this mind-set is nothing short of a tragedy, » Abrams wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.
Conservative columnist Jeff Jacoby of The Boston Globe wrote that human rights and reform has clearly not been a priority of the Obama administration, adding: « It is unworthy of a nation as great and free as ours not to promote the values it most esteems. It shouldn’t take an upheaval in the Arab street to remind us that it is always in America’s interest to promote liberal democracy. »
In a story titled « Was George Bush right? » The Economist stated that « Mr. Bush was indeed a far more active champion of democracy than Mr. Obama has been, » but said Bush still bears responsibility for invading Iraq.
In a 2003 speech Bush stated: ‘Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe – because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty. As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment and violence ready for export. »
The Bush administration often failed to act on its pro-democratic ideals however, particularly during the administration’s second term when it turned its attention to seeking peace in the Middle East.
Some observers believe Bush’s policies and the Iraq War actually delayed the onset of human-rights concerns in the Middle East, however.
Brown, the George Washington foreign policy expert, told CSPAN that the aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which nearly triggered a civil war, raised fears in the eyes of many Arabs over the chaos that could accompany democracy: « The Iraqi situation made it possible for Arab regimes to be able to say to their own societies: ‘You really want to push this? You really want to push mobilization of people out into the street? This is where we may be headed,’ » he said.