The most important news of the day is clearly out of Egypt, but this is (a) well outside my expertise, and (b) something especially hard for me to keep tabs on while on vacation. So I’ll offer a link to my colleague Brian Katulis who’s actually knowledgeable about the region and has some tough words about the Obama administration’s overall approach to the area:
After stumbling a bit in its initial response to the unrest, the Obama administration has come out strongly in favor of universal rights to free speech and peaceful protest. Now is the time to back up that talk with policy action. America has provided around $60 billion in assistance to Egypt over the past 30 years and it has established deep ties with Egypt’s military and intelligence services. In fact, a senior Egyptian military delegation has been visiting the Pentagon this week as the unrest grew in Egypt. Egypt certainly plays an important role in America’s fight against global terrorist networks and the efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, and our countries have many common interests.
There is a way to navigate all of these issues and shape a more proactive and less reactive policy. As I argued in this policy analysis for the Century Foundation, the United States should seek to use all of its leverage to achieve progress on core security interests while encouraging pragmatic reform. Otherwise, staying the course in a path dependency on current U.S. policy could lead to greater instability. Indeed, there is something to Egyptian opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei’s argument that America’s current policy “is really pushing Egypt and pushing the whole Arab world into radicalization with this inept policy of supporting repression.” America’s influence and leverage is not what it used to be but it can revive its position by changing its policy approach.
Taking the long view, it’s clearly not possible for Egypt and other Arab states to be ruled by “pro-American” dictatorships forever so policy that’s merely based on prolonging the day of reckoning has some real problems.