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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What did Obama know and when did he know it?

Niall Ferguson's view that the Obama administration reacted badly to the crisis in Egypt seems to be widespread, at least in what I've been reading online. But the problem goes beyond what happened in the last month.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Egypt Group (which I discussed here) warned of trouble ahead in Egypt more than a year ago. According to another source, the administration may even have known two years ago.

But first, the Journal's report.
Early last year, a group of U.S.-based human-rights activists, neoconservative policy makers and Mideast experts told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that what passed for calm in Egypt was an illusion.

"If the opportunity to reform is missed, prospects for stability and prosperity in Egypt will be in doubt," read their April 2010 letter.

The correspondence was part of a string of warnings passed to the Obama administration arguing that Egypt, heading toward crisis, required a vigorous U.S. response. Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's 82-year-old dictator, was moving to rig a string of elections, they said. Egypt's young population was growing more agitated.

The bipartisan body that wrote to Mrs. Clinton, the Egypt Working Group, argued that the administration wasn't fully appraising the warning signs in Egypt. Its members came together in early 2010, concerned that the Arab world's biggest country was headed for transition but that the U.S. and others weren't preparing for a post-Mubarak era.
But in an email I received today, Professor Barry Rubin discloses that the warnings about Egypt go back two years - to the beginning of the Obama administration. And that they came from inside sources and not just from the Egypt Group.
[F]or more than two years a high-ranking Egyptian official has been warning about this (though he predicted more of an elite revolt against Mubarak than a popular one). We expected generally that Mubarak would die or be disabled, pass the presidency on to his son, and then the elite would revolt and throw out the Mubaraks. The popular revolt gave them an opportunity to do this earlier (and also because Mubarak literally lived too long.) That is the hidden story here. I don't know if Ferguson knows about this but what he said was not far off the mark.
So why didn't Obama listen? I would argue that this passage from the Journal article explains why.
The Obama administration reaped strategic gains from this outreach. Cairo embraced Mr. Obama's initiative to accelerate Arab-Israeli peace talks, hosting meetings between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators and attempting to broker a unity government between feuding Palestinian factions.
That's it folks. Once again, it's Obama's obsession with Israel and with bringing about the creation of a 'Palestinian state' that caused him to miss the entire Egyptian revolution. He's so obsessed with the 'Palestinians' that he ignores everything else that goes on in this region. And he continues this behavior even though - as Wikileaks made clear - the creation of a 'Palestinian state' is an obsession of the radical Left in the West, and not an obsession of the Arabs.

What else is the Obama administration missing through its obsession with the 'Palestinians' and what costs will it hold for the United States and the West?

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At 9:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thing is Mubarak's almost dead anyways and the regime threw out the kids and here we are. Problem is O's next obsession might be "Egyptian democracy including all secular and non-secular voices", and outreach to Muslim Brotherhood greasing the wheels for Egyptian to join the ranks of the confrontation states.

At 9:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Niall Ferguson below does make the point that the vacuum in foreign policy residing between the two jug ears of the chief executive empty suit squandered an opportunity to build up the secular opposition to Muslim Brotherhood. Problem is once you get past the touchy-feelly amateurism of O you reach the left-wing ideological motivations to suck up to exotic "social-justice" ROP types like the Muslim Brotherhood. Dangerously incompetent or incompetently dangerous? Two breath-mints in one.


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