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Monday, January 31, 2011

Messiah's times: Obama seeking advice on Egypt from bipartisan panel, including (gulp!) former Bush NSC official

I think this is a first. President Obama has invited a bipartisan panel of experts, which was among the few groups to warn of the coming crisis in Egypt, to advise him on how to handle what's going on in Egypt. The panel includes (gulp!) former Bush administration National Security Council official Elliott Abrams.
Several foreign policy scholars and former officials have been urging the U.S. administration for months to prepare for the end of the Hosni Mubarak era and the instability that would accompany it.

Now that the administration has found itself scrambling the past few days to, first, try to avert a bloodbath in Egypt and more broadly, figure out what to do amid a hugely complicated power transition there with much at stake for the U.S., it's worth noting the people who have been pleading for policy attention on this issue long in advance. Chief among them, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Michele Dunne, a former NSC and State Department Policy Planning official, and the Brookings Institution's Robert Kagan, who co-chair a bipartisan working group on Egypt.


To their credit, the National Security Council's top Middle East hands Dennis Ross and Dan Shapiro met with Dunne and Kagan in November to discuss the issue (at a stuck moment of the peace process which has remained stuck), and other democracy and human rights specialists in the administration, including the NSC's Samantha Power and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East democracy issues Tamara Wittes, have frequently met with them. But the regional advisors' priorities mattered most, advocates believed, and to a great extent, much of their focus (as for that of the principals above them, and indeed, the wider policy community and media) has been on the peace process, and looking at Egypt through the prism of its role in supporting the peace process.

Just got late word that Dunne, Kagan and others from their group including former Bush NSC Middle East hand Elliott Abrams, as well as George Washington University Middle East expert Marc Lynch, have been invited to the White House Monday.
But will Obama listen? What could go wrong?

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