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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Walk Like an Egyptian

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)

OK, so now in a reprise of June of 2009 when blood literally ran down Tehran's streets, our president is once again, no pun intended, Tut Tutting the violence and chaos that's essentially replaced the Egyptian government. Egyptians are so hostile toward authority figures that they're literally ripping the heads of Pharaoh mummies and otherwise looting or vandalizing their national treasures.

The very fact that the violence is escalating and that the protesters are winning proves that saturnine Obama calling for restraint and siding with a tyrannical, oppressive regime such as Mubarek's makes the leader of the free world look about as effective as a junior high school cafeteria monitor during a food fight.

If nothing else, the metastasizing unrest and bloodshed (at least 74 Egyptians have been killed since this week's riots) puts our government in an extremely uncomfortable, and untenable, position. As stated earlier, Obama is forced to stick with his man Hosni despite the fact that Africa's one superpower is among the most brutal, barbaric and oppressive nations on earth, the kind of sadistic dictatorship to which the Bush administration turned when it wanted to extraordinarily rendition terror suspects.

In other words, Egypt these past 30 years has no more resembled a democracy than post-Soviet Russia. At the risk of oversimplification, a vote for Egypt is a vote against democracy. Hosni Mubarek had literally turned off the internet, shut down al-Jazeera while revoking press credentials, sent troops onto the streets to kill at least 74 protesters, place Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed elBaradei under house arrest and fired his entire government while naming a puppet as his "successor", thereby officially making Egypt a one man dictatorship. Yet Obama still stands by his man at a time when even his own son wouldn't, even flying in the face of a fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

The desire for democracy across the Middle East and North Africa these past two weeks, if nothing else, had brought into razor-sharp focus our ongoing hypocrisy as regards democracy. Our pious platitudes about democracy, belied by years of deadly adventurism across Latin America from the 50's to the present day, ring hollow. We'd rather support one dictatorship after another in the Middle East as long as they momentarily ally themselves with the United States' War on Terror.

Here's a something else that's huge that ought to be getting more play in the media: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is actually encouraging the protesters in direct contravention to Obama's "policy" of noninvolvement. In fact, as long as Obama chooses to remain saturninely detached from these proceedings as if they really don't involve the United States, then Mrs. Clinton's hands are tied. It's telling that Clinton, in direct and almost unique contravention to a president whose policies she is constitutionally bound to support, is instead supporting the unrest in Cairo and elsewhere while her immediate predecessor, Condi Rice, had called for Egypt to move closer to a democracy. If that doesn't put Mrs. Clinton and Dr. Rice on the same page, it certainly puts them in the same chapter.

In short, what's happening in Cairo is actually fragmenting our government so that now our commander in chief and secretary of state are at stark odds with each other.

For all its massive faults and foreign policy failures, it had to be said that the Bush administration was at least cognizant that Egypt had nothing than a mere sham of a democracy and, however lazily or timidly, attempted to make some inroads toward effecting that.

To listen to the Obama administration, the unrest in the Middle East and northern Africa doesn't really affect us or our foreign policy but it's impossible to see how this will not involve a necessary paradigm shift from Foggy Bottom to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

This ought to force the Obama administration to rethink its foreign policy priorities both for our present nation as well as the generations of Americans and presidential administrations to come. If you need a predictor of how disastrous it is for one administration to blindly and stupidly take up the initiatives of the previous one, look at Obama's very insistence on supporting the dying dictatorship in Egypt, look at Iraq, look at Afghanistan and tell me how Obama has improved things in those geopolitical arenas.
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