January 30, 2011

Constructive criticism of Obama on Egypt

President Obama appeared effete and indecisive when it came to the uprising in Iran.  The result - the hard-line regime is still in place. Contrast that with President Reagan on the uprisings across Europe, from Gdansk Poland (where there is a park named after the former President) to East Berlin.  Remember the words "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall"?

Remember President Kennedy's "Ich Ben Ein Berliner"?

The point is that both men understood the importance of history and not being caught like a deer in the headlights.  President Obama was non-existent in the Iran crisis, and he seemed extremely slow or disinterested in the Gulf oil spill.  Now, something potentially game-changing is going on in Egypt, and from the White House?  Crickets.

Here's some constructive criticism for the President.  On Egypt - do something.  Anything.  At this point it is abundantly clear to most that if something doesn't fit into your agenda (especially when it comes to international affairs) then it's a trivial matter for you.  But if you do something, anything, even if you get it wrong, you can't be accused of voting 'present' for what could be one of the biggest international events in your presidency.  You'll probably get it wrong, but you'll get more respect at home for doing something than for doing nothing.  Rather than sitting on the sidelines waiting to see which way the wind is blowing before you choose a side, stand up for something.  If you really believed in freedom, democracy and human rights, the choice would be pretty simple.  If an ally who isn't as democratic as you'd like is more important to you than democracy in Egypt, there's a rationale for that too. Except that it would prove a certain hypocrisy on your part when you make decisions as a matter of national interest rather than principle (say for example when it comes to something like keeping the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay open).

Whatever you do it won't change most people's opinion of you, so what's the harm in taking a side?

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