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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Obama is missing the passion in Egypt

Elliott Abrams writes that the problem with the Obama administration's approach to Egypt is the lack of passion.
The first problem with the Obama Administration’s reaction has been noted above: inconstancy. Thinking it is calibrating its responses to events on the ground, it is instead leaving friend and foe alike unclear about its intentions. The larger problem is the lack of commitment and passion. The presidential statements have been those of Obama the academic, the cool analyst. Last Sunday he said “Here’s what we know: is that Egypt is not going to go back to what it was. The Egyptian people want freedom. They want free and fair elections. They want a representative government. They want a responsive government. And so, what we’ve said is: you have to start a transition now. Mubarak has already decided he’s not running for re-election again. His term is up this year. And what we’ve said is: let’s make sure that you get all the groups together in Egypt, let Egyptian people make a determination on what’s the process for an orderly transition, but one that is a meaningful transition.” Not exactly inspirational. And when asked whether the Muslim Brotherhood might take over he lapsed into down-home folksy talk: “there are a whole bunch of secular folks in Egypt.” Thousands of those “secular folks” are risking their lives in Tahrir Square every day, but the President has yet to give them any sense that he, and America, are moved, excited, and admiring about their fight for freedom.

Administration defenders point to a word here and a sentence there that show how hard the President and his staff are pressing the Egyptian regime. They can show you the words, the lyrics. Missing entirely is the music—the sense of passion, the message that we are inspired by the demonstrators and loathe stagnant dictatorships like the one that has ruled Egypt’s people for decades.

Compare what Natan Sharansky has said about Ronald Reagan’s “evil empire” speech, when asked if there were any particular moments that inspired the struggle against tyranny in the Soviet Union:
Of course! It was the great brilliant moment when we learned that Ronald Reagan had proclaimed the Soviet Union an Evil Empire before the entire world. There was a long list of all the Western leaders who had lined up to condemn the evil Reagan for daring to call the great Soviet Union an evil empire right next to the front-page story about this dangerous, terrible man who wanted to take the world back to the dark days of the Cold War. This was the moment. It was the brightest, most glorious day. Finally a spade had been called a spade. Finally, Orwell’s Newspeak was dead. President Reagan had from that moment made it impossible for anyone in the West to continue closing their eyes to the real nature of the Soviet Union. It was one of the most important, freedom-affirming declarations, and we all instantly knew it. For us, that was the moment that really marked the end for them, and the beginning for us. The lie had been exposed and could never, ever be untold now. This was the end of Lenin’s “Great October Bolshevik Revolution” and the beginning of a new revolution, a freedom revolution–Reagan’s Revolution.
In the face of a freedom revolution in Tunisia and Egypt, the President has not used his voice; he has not inspired the demonstrators nor has he been an articulate defender of our own values. Will he miss this historic moment, as he missed the moment when Iran’s people rebelled in June 2009?
Let's look at that Reagan speech, and then I'll have some comments about why Obama is not passionate about Egypt.

Let's go to the videotape.

That's passion!

Why doesn't Obama have it? Well, he does, but in the Middle East Obama's passion is limited to one issue: The 'Palestinians.' In Obama's world, the White Man (Israel) is 'oppressing' the Brown Man (the Arabs) and that bothers him. But in Egypt, there's one Brown Man (Mubarak) oppressing (notice no scare quotes) a lot of Brown Men, and that doesn't interest him much. That's the truth. In Obama's mind, there's no fierce moral urgency for regime change in Egypt like there is for a 'Palestinian state.' He just doesn't care.

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At 9:59 PM, Blogger Nomadic100 said...

Obama IS passionate on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood. He just can't demonstrate that passion publicly.

At 10:18 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - the real problem is democracy in Egypt won't necessarily lead to a Western-style democratic state. It could well lead to another Iran on the shores of the Mediterranean.

That's why Obama is conflicted. Its also a reminder, multicultural pieties aside, the Middle East isn't Eastern Europe in 1989.


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