Sunday, January 30, 2011

On Egypt: Obama Might Be Wrong But His Critics Are Worse

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Cartoon by Charles E. Hughes Especially for Rubin Reports
By Barry Rubin

Briefly, this seems to be the nature of the U.S. debate over Egypt:

Conservatives, eager to score partisan points on President Barack Obama, criticize him for not pushing Egypt hard enough on reform, remembering President George W. Bush's backing for democracy.

The left and liberals criticize Obama for not going further pushing Egypt hard on reform.

In short, both camps want the regime to fall. Now if we are talking about Husni Mubarak being replaced, he is after all 82 years old and wouldn't be long in office any way. And if we are talking about Gamal Mubarak, his son, not taking power as successor, that makes sense because he isn't up to the job.

But if this bipartisan consensus is talking about bringing the regime down altogether and fundamentally transforming Egypt, be very careful what you advocate, you might get it.

Analogies to places like the Philippines, South Korea, and Chile (!) don't work so well because none of these are Middle Eastern countries, all had strong democratic pasts, and in the first two there was no serious radical threat. In the third, Chile, the radical forces were the ones being overthrown.

Now, Iran (Islamist), Lebanon (Hizballah), Gaza Strip (Hamas), Algeria (bloody civil war) are in the Middle East. And the differences with case studies of countries in Asia and South America are not just accidental.

While the Obama Administration is pushing too hard for my taste and not giving enough public support to the regime--not the Mubaraks personally--its critics seem to be even more wrong.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

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