Tags: Egypt

One Year After Morsi, How Goes Egypt?


Just over one year ago, Egyptians took to the streets in numbers never seen anywhere, ever on June 30, 2013, to protest against their Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi. Three days later, defense minister Abdul Fattah al-Sisi responded to this outpouring by overthrowing Morsi. How do things look now, a year later?

Pretty awful. Looking at the two most urgent arenas, Islam and the economy, almost nothing offers a sign of hope.

In the debate over the proper role of Islam in the lives of Egyptians, the dividing lines have only increased, spawning violence, further extremism, and a sense that the country’s split between Islamist and anti-Islamist factions will last for many years. Even the dividing lines among Islamists and among anti-Islamists are hardening. The inscrutable Sisi presides over this mess as the new Hosni Mubarak, stolid and repressive, with his own views seemingly contradictory and elusive.

Egypt’s economic decline continues apace. Income is down most everywhere one looks – direct foreign investment, remittances from workers abroad, tourism. Perhaps most symbolic is that until April 2012, the country sold natural gas to Israel; less than two years later, it buys natural gas from Israel (at more than four times the old selling price). Pervasive food and energy subsidies distort the economy, as do the ubiquitous military industries. Red tape remains stifling. The country unsustainably depends on subventions from rich Persian Gulf states to pay for imported foodstuffs.

At the one-year mark, Sisi has done little to inspire confidence. But we who wish Egypt well have little choice but to look to him to grow in his job and tend to the fissures and weaknesses that have so swollen under the military dictatorship that began in 1952. Should Sisi fail, one shudders to contemplate the possibly Syrian-like civil war and economic collapse that could follow.

Tags: Egypt , Morsi , Sisi

Sisi’s Incompetent Anti-Islamist Campaign


Tuesday, an Egyptian court in short order sentenced some 529 people to death for the death of a single police officer. News like this gives one pause. 

Very tough treatment of Islamists is needed to repress this totalitarian movement, including rejection of their efforts to apply Islamic law, keeping them out of mainstream institutions, even excluding their parties from the democratic process. But General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s extra-legal crackdown on Islamists will likely backfire and help the Islamist cause by winning them broad sympathy. Even if today’s absurd judgment gets reversed on appeal, it and others like it are doing real damage.

Sisi is riding high now, with out-of-sight popularity ratings, but he appears as unprepared to rule Egypt as another military man, Gamal Abdel Nasser, was 60 years ago. Two factors in particular – the dismal economy and the hostility between pro- and anti-Islamists – will likely bring Sisi down fast and hard. When that happens, Islamists will benefit from his incompetence no less than Sisi exploited the failures of Mohamed Morsi. The cycle continues, the country falls further behind, and the precipice looms.

More broadly, because the expected Egyptian failure in suppressing Islamism will have global ramifications, Sisi’s mistakes damage the anti-Islamist cause not just in his own country but internationally. The stakes in Egypt these days are high indeed.

Tags: Egypt , Sisi , Islamism

Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya: America’s Out of the Deposing-Rulers Business


Today’s Morning Jolt features a surprising vote for Ken Cuccinelli in the governor’s race, analysis of Putin’s maneuvering in the Syria crisis, and then a look at an element that’s been missing from the discussion of war in Syria:

Why Americans Aren’t that Angry at Bashir Assad

Real American anger at Assad is missing from the current debate about Syria; by and large, we don’t really feel enormous animosity or fury or rage towards the Syrian dictator. Ironically, there isn’t much dispute about his worst crime; the polling is pretty clear: “While eight in 10 Americans believe that Bashar al-Assad’s regime gassed its own people, a strong majority doesn’t want Congress to pass a resolution authorizing a military strike against it.”

But Assad doesn’t set Americans’ blood to a boil. Perhaps a decade of war, and runaway anti-Americanism, have left us shrugging when we see an evil man who has, at least so far, avoided direct confrontation with the United States.

America has a lot of enemies in that region who are directly confronting the United States: Just under one year ago today:


Cairo, above; Benghazi, below.

The pictures above are from Egypt — where we thought we stood with the Egyptian people, in their decision to depose Mubarak — and Libya, where we and NATO took military action to help the Libyan people against the dictator Qaddafi. And then the locals turned on us and attacked our diplomatic facilities and personnel. Then you throw in the response of the Iraqi people and the Afghans, last seen inflicting “green on blue” attacks by infiltrating the Afghan security forces and killing coalition personnel.

Right now, Americans aren’t that convinced that anybody over there is really deserving of our help. We’re not convinced that we would do much good, we’re nearly certain no one would be thankful, and we’re suspicious that the folks we help will just turn around and attack us again later. It’s painting with a broad brush, but one shaped by hard experience.

Tags: Obama , Syria , Benghazi , Egypt , Afghanistan

Why Can’t We Be Honest About Egypt’s Aid?


The United States may sort-of, kind-of reduce part of Egypt’s economic aid, but leave our military aid to Egypt intact. This comes after several weeks of the Obama administration and State Department pretending that what happened in Egypt wasn’t really a military coup, to avoid legally required aid cutoffs.

If the Obama administration really wants to keep sending military and economic aid to Egypt’s government, why is it seemingly incapable of coming out and saying so, and asking Congress to change the law that requires the U.S. to suspend aid to countries where democratically elected leaders are deposed in military coups? If keeping the aid flowing really helps the interests of the United States, why not make the case to Congress? What’s so hard about saying, “We fear that if we do as the law requires, the situation will grow less stable, more violent, and more dangerous for our interests”?

Kevin Williamson put the Egypt-aid decision in the context of other times the Obama administration has simply ignored laws that it finds inconvenient: extralegal assassination of American citizens, unilaterally delaying portions of the Obamacare law, the law regarding recess appointments to his cabinet, deportations of young illegal immigrants, and so on. Since the policy on Egypt amounts to a lie — the United States insists no coup has occurred, when the world watched it happen, live on their televisions& — we can put our foreign policy here in context with some other high-profile lies: Jay Carney’s consequence-free lie about the edits to the Benghazi talking points, DNI Clapper’s lie to a congressional panel about the extent of the NSA’s domestic activities, and Attorney General Eric Holder’s lie before Congress about potential prosecutions of members of the media.

Perhaps it has been so long since anyone in this administration suffered a consequence for lying to the public that it has become their default approach to difficult issues like Egypt.

UPDATE: Over in the Corner: “President Obama is not considering calling the Egyptian military’s takeover a coup, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said today.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Egypt

As the Middle East Burns, Obama Is Drawn to Water . . . Hazards


An epic Morning Jolt to start the week — Joe Biden’s presidential ambitions; a look at the members of Congress who don’t feel they need a campaign website (one has a name that rhymes with Schmancy Schmelosi); a big event coming up at Heritage, Obamacare blows up the health-care plan of 100,000 New Jersey residents, and . . . 

As the Middle East Burns, Obama Is Drawn to Water . . . Hazards

How much worse does the violence in Egypt have to get before it fits the definition of a ‘civil war’?

If you’re a Christian institution in Egypt, chances are somebody — most likely a Muslim Brotherhood fan — has set fire or tried to set fire to your workplace by now.

Throw that near–civil war onto the Syrian one (death toll now 106,000 or so) , the increasing sectarian violence in Iraq, Syrian violence spreading into Lebanon (a huge car bomb detonated in Beirut and another one caught, a story that didn’t even make headlines in the U.S.), and Afghanistan remaining Afghanistan, and it increasingly looks like the whole Middle East is on fire.

Credit Obama in one way: He currently accurately represents the view of a majority of the American people, in that they don’t want to think much about the Middle East, either.

Of course, we’re fools if we think just shrugging and murmuring rote denunciations of violence will generate results where we’re respected, feared, or trusted as an ally, as Mark Steyn notes:

Everywhere except Washington people are thinking strategically: General Sisi has made a calculation that he has a small window of opportunity to inflict damage on the Muslim Brotherhood that will set them back decades and that it is in Egypt’s vital interest to do so. Grasping that, the Brothers are pushing back hard.

Out in the wider world, Putin figures there’s a regional power play to be made, and that Moscow can be back in Cairo in a big way for the first time in four decades.

All these parties are pursuing their strategic interest. Does the United States have such a thing anymore? Not so’s you’d notice. As a result, the factions in Egypt are united only in their contempt for Washington. Obama is despised by Sisi and the generals for being fundamentally unserious; by the Brotherhood for stringing along with the coup; by the Copts for standing by as the Brothers take it out on them; and by the small number of genuine democrats in Egypt for his witless promotion of Morsi’s thugs as the dawning of democracy.

Out on the streets, Washington is reviled both for standing by Mubarak too long and for pushing him out too soon (eighty per cent of Egyptians say things are worse than under the old man). And, with the 2011 “Facebook Revolution” all out of “Likes”, the King of Jordan and the Gulf emirs understand the meaning of the ailing, abandoned strongman in his military prison cell in purely geopolitical terms – that (as Bernard Lewis once warned) America is harmless as an enemy but treacherous as a friend.

We can try to ignore explosive violence in far-off lands that were once our allies, but . . . chances are, sooner or later, that will come back to bite us.

Meanwhile . . . ”President Obama hit the links Saturday with comedian Larry David, the star of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, as his weeklong vacation in Martha’s Vineyard comes to a close.”

“Don’t worry, world. I’ve got this.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Syria , Egypt , Middle East

Foreign Aid Promises on Kerry’s Debut Trip: $310 Million and Counting


Was sequestration really the best time for the Obama administration to send new Secretary of State John Kerry overseas to announce $250 million in assistance to Egypt and $60 million in assistance to the Syrian rebels?

Because I’m sure we’ll hear about American firehouses shutting down because of the sequester… and in 2004, one of the biggest applause lines in Kerry’s acceptance speech at the Democratic convention in Boston was, “We shouldn’t be opening firehouses in Baghdad and shutting them in the United States of America.”

Because each time the administration points to some allegedly horrific cut, taxpayers can legitimately wonder, “why was that less of a priority than a Muslim Brotherhood-run Egypt or the Syrian rebels?”

Tags: Egypt , John Kerry , Sequester , Syria

We Thanked Egypt For Eventually Protecting Our Embassy


A senior State Department official, briefing reporters about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s meeting with Egyptian President Morsi: “It began with the Secretary thanking the President for the security that was provided to our Embassy. We all understand that in the first hours, as the Egyptians themselves have said, it may have been a little slow, but indeed quite quickly Egypt provided to our Embassy and has continued to provide to our Embassy quite professional and quite effective security.”

Ah, those diplomatic euphemisms. This is what “a little slow” looks like:

Yes, we offer you effusive gratitude, President Morsi, for eventually meeting your basic obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Tags: Egypt , Hillary Clinton

Obama’s Mistake Is Much Bigger Than an ‘Ally’ Gaffe


Allow me to deviate slightly from the emerging consensus that President Obama stepped in it mightily when he said that “I don’t think we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy.”

How would you characterize a regime where the security forces are unable or unwilling to protect U.S. soil, where the locals storm the embassy, trash it, remove and destroy the U.S. flag, and replace it with a black Islamist flag reading, “There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet”? Does that seem like the actions of an “ally”? How do you characterize a regime that takes a day to issue any statement responding to such an attack, one whose denunciation is tepid, one that urges its embassy to attempt to take legal action in the U.S. to restrict the rights of an American to criticize Islam?

I don’t doubt that the declaration that the U.S. no longer considers the Egyptian government to be an ally will have considerable reverberations in Cairo and U.S. diplomatic circles — but those reverberations ought to pale in comparison to the storming of an embassy on 9/11, and a series of attacks on U.S. soil and personnel in the region.

Obama’s mistake is much bigger than the “ally” comment; it is his vision and approach, which we’ve seen for years. His mistake has been viewing Prime Minister Morsi, the government headed by the Muslim Brotherhood, and the entire Arab Spring with rose-colored glasses.

Is the security around our embassies and consulates lax because we underestimate the anti-American currents in the driving philosophies of the Arab Spring? Can anyone argue that the Obama administration has had a realistic sense of anti-American attitudes in the region, and the dangers they present?

The Washington Post’s foreign-affairs columnist, David Ignatius, had a fascinating throwaway line in his column today:

The Salafists’ assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi at first appeared to be a “copycat” attack like the one in Cairo, but U.S. officials said it may have been planned by extremists linked to al-Qaeda. They were augmented by a well-armed Islamic militia. Their anger, again, is mixed between a baseline anti-Americanism (sadly, always a draw in the region) and a challenge to Prime Minister Abdurraheem el-Keib and the secularist parties that are the backbone of the new Libyan government.

A key goal of U.S. policy ought to be fighting, refuting, and discrediting this “baseline anti-Americanism.” The people of the United States have been the go-to scapegoat for every two-bit demagogue from Algiers, Algeria, to Lahore, Pakistan. With almost metronomic regularity, somebody with aspirations of political or religious power decides that easiest way to build up a following is to declare that the economic, political, or moral problems of their neighborhood are the fault of Americans. They and all of their buddies choose to lash out with a demonstration at the U.S. diplomatic post. On a quiet day, it’s just banners and chanting; on a bad day, good Americans get killed, just for showing up to work.

We have leverage with these regimes, none more so than Egypt, which receives enormous sums of foreign aid and is seeking billions in debt relief. If these regimes want to be considered allies, and want those wonderful American dollars to keep coming, they have to push back against knee-jerk anti-Americanism. We cannot be the all-purpose bogeyman in the political rhetoric of states that claim to want to be our friends, a convenient caricature for regime spokesmen to trot out when they need to distract from their own failures.

The demonization of America is so pervasive in Egyptian media it even percolated freely in the English-language press under Mubarak. No one’s asking foreign governments to shut down voices critical of America; just to refute the lies and stand up for our reputations, to stop letting us be the perpetual villain in all of their political discussions.

Obama’s problem isn’t one stray comment. Our problem is the policy he has pursued from Day One.

Tags: Arab Spring , Barack Obama , Egypt

Three Policy Points for Romney to Raise


There was nothing inappropriate about Mitt Romney’s statement on the Libyan attacks this morning. If anything, his remarks were strikingly limited in scope. (The inane, narrative-obsessed, and apparently coordinated questions from the press didn’t help generate a substantive discussion.)

The events of the past 24 hours spotlight at least three major policy decisions by the Obama administration that are deserving of scrutiny in this election season:

1) So the Obama administration disavowed the statement released by the U.S. embassy in Cairo declaring that the embassy “condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.” That’s fine, but the boilerplate responses of the administration continue to suggest that the federal government believes that statements or expressions that offend certain religions are not acceptable, and that our policy is that they should somehow be not permitted or not aired in the public square.

From Obama’s initial statement: “The United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.”

From Obama’s Rose Garden statement: “We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.”

No we don’t! No one in the U.S. government rejects Bill Maher’s documentary Religulous, or the Broadway musical mocking the Mormon faith, or Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady” character. Denigrating the religious beliefs of others, whether popular or unpopular, is protected speech under the First Amendment, and there is a long history of this in American life.

You only see U.S. lawmakers denouncing mockery or criticism of a religion when the religion in question is Islam, and the primary cause of that is that Muslims in certain countries tend to lash out against perceived blasphemy by attacking Westerners, foreigners, and U.S. troops and diplomatic personnel. Large swaths of the Muslim world insist that the American interpretation of the First Amendment must adapt to conform with their faith’s blasphemy definitions and punishments.

The right to speak freely is non-negotiable, but the vague comments of the administration appear to be suggesting that we think some unspecified limitations on speech critical of Islam is compatible with our laws, Constitution, and traditions.

2) Why were the security measures for our embassy in Cairo and our consulate in Benghazi so insufficient? Did this administration underestimate the risk to our personnel in these cities and in other cities around the Middle East? Did the administration’s belief that the “Arab Spring” is good for our interests lead them to complacency about anti-American sentiment and the potential for violence in these cities?

3) Perhaps most importantly, when the Egyptian government, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, has refused to denounce the attacks, why are we even considering forgiving $1 billion of their debt? The administration’s proposal for forgiving $1 billion in debt must be dead on arrival on Capitol Hill, and it is a prime example of the administration being naïve, far too generous, and far too trusting in its dealings with the Egyptian government.

Tags: Barack Obama , Egypt , Libya , Mitt Romney

Anti-American Violence Strikes U.S. Diplomats in Libya, Egypt


The lead item in the Morning Jolt is outrage-inducing . . .

Libyans Kill U.S. Ambassador, Other Americans; Egyptians Storm U.S. Embassy, Burn Flag

Enraging news out of Libya this morning:

The U.S. ambassador to Libya died as Libya militants stormed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

The death of Christopher Stevens, 52, on Tuesday came as two American State Department employees were also killed in Benghazi as an 20 gun-wielding attackers stormed the U.S. consulate, angry about an American made film that depicts Prophet Mohammad as a fraud and womanizer.

Stevens, who was a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and served two tours of duty in Libya, was nominated by President Obama to be ambassador to Libya early this year. His term of appointment as ambassador to Libya began on May 22.

Our ambassador’s body was carried through the streets by the mob. “Reminiscent of Somalia,” says Toby Harnden.

As I’m sending off the Jolt, there are unconfirmed reports that two U.S. Marines are among the dead.

Before the awful news out of Libya, the worst news appeared to be from Egypt – you know, the showcase nation of the Arab Spring, where the Muslim Brotherhood is now calling the shots . . .

Dear Egyptian crowds: You decide to hold large-scale protests, storm our embassy’s walls, tear down the American flag and replace it with an Islamic one . . . and you do it on September 11? To hell with you guys.

Reuters relays what happened in Cairo Tuesday:

Egyptian protesters scaled the walls of the U.S. embassy on Tuesday, tore down the American flag and burned it during a protest over what they said was a film being produced in the United States that insulted Prophet Mohammad.

In place of the U.S. flag, the protesters tried to raise a black flag with the words “There is no God but God, and Mohammad is his messenger,” a Reuters witness said.

Once the U.S. flag was hauled down, some protesters tore it up and showed off pieces to television cameras. Others burned the remains outside the fortress-like embassy building in central Cairo. But some protesters objected to the flag burning.


But the good news is, we really came down on that violent mob like a ton of bricks. Check out the statement from our Embassy:

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

. . . Er, wait, what?

We’re condemning the folks who offended the Egyptians, not the Egyptians storming our soil – yes, all embassies are the sovereign soil of the country they represent, not that the Iranians ever cared – and burning our flag? Why is the U.S. Embassy in Cairo determining what constitutes an “abuse” of the “universal right of free speech”? I’m pretty sure there’s something in the Constitution about the federal government regulating freedom of expression. To quote Jon Stewart, “Not sure which amendment covers that, but it’s probably in the top one.”

Bryan Preston: “The fact that the US embassy in Cairo would issue such a statement to Islamists, on 9-11 of all days, is a deep low point in American history.”

Well, at least we’re getting tough with the Egyptian government for failing to control the crowd or meet its duty to protect our embassy. Oh, wait:

The Obama administration hopes to go to Congress soon with a plan for using $1 billion in debt relief to help Egypt stabilize its economy and expand its private sector, a senior U.S. State Department official said on Friday.

“My hope would be is that we would go to the Congress very shortly with a framework of how we recommend that this money be allocated,” U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides told reporters during a conference call to discuss goals for a U.S. business delegation headed to Egypt this weekend.

President Barack Obama promised in May 2011 to relieve Egypt of up to $1 billion of the $3.2 billion debt it owes the United States, and to guarantee another $1 billion in loans for infrastructure and job creation programs.

Following Egypt’s first free elections, which brought Islamist president Mohamed Mursi to power in June, the United States has started detailed discussions with Egyptian officials on how the money would be used.

“We’re still in those discussions. I think we’re getting close to finalizing it. Obviously the Congress has to approve what we’re doing and we’re consulting with both Republicans and Democrats and there’s really, quite frankly, bipartisan support for this,” Nides said.

Not bipartisan support anymore, I’d bet.

New rule: You burn our embassy’s flag on 9/11, you get jack squat in foreign aid for the next five years.

Tags: Barack Obama , Egypt , Libya

Allen West: There’s No ‘Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln or Reagan in Egypt.’


Via Twitter, Rep. Allen West of Florida joins the ranks of Republicans critical of Obama’s response to Egypt: “Obama shouldn’t demand the departure of Mubarak without knowing who fills void. No Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, or Reagan in Egypt.”

Tags: Allen West , Barack Obama , Egypt

The United States vs. Egypt: Exchequer Metrics


National Review has had a lot to say about American exceptionalism in the past year. There is no question, in my mind, about American exceptionalism during the 20th century. What about today? How do we stack up with, say, those poor, benighted Egyptians, with their thug president?

Here are some metrics dear to Exchequer’s heart:

National Debt as Share of GDP: USA, 95.6, Egypt, 76. That’s assuming Egypt’s economy takes a significant hit this year. Advantage: Egypt.

Deficit as Share of GDP in 2011 (Estimated): USA: 9.8, Egypt, 8.7. Advantage, Egypt.

Rate of Pillage, a/k/a/ Government Spending as a Share of GDP: USA, 24, Egypt, 27. Advantage: USA. But not by all that much.

Freedom from Corruption, as scored by the Heritage index: USA, 75, Egypt 28. But I think we’re being too easy on ourselves limiting the discussion to Heritage’s very useful index. Corruption is not as widespread in the United States, but the stakes are higher: In License to Steal, Harvard’s Dr. Malcolm Sparrow estimates that Medicare and Medicaid fraud in the United States could exceed $300 billion a year, or half again as large as Egypt’s GDP. Which is to say, Egypt would have to dedicate 150 percent of its economic output to corruption to catch up to Medicare and Medicaid corruption. Advantage: USA, with an asterisk.

Why do I point this out? Because I want to remind you: The conditions that have resulted in 200-odd years of relative peace and prosperity for the American people are not normal. The normal state of mankind of a lot more like Mubarak’s Egypt than Reagan’s America, or Obama’s. Institutions matter, and one of the institutions that matters is sober, responsible  government. Drawing a line forward from 2011 into the future, which does the American government more closely resemble? The one that helped make this nation great by allowing liberty to thrive, or one of the ones that used to be a punchline until such jokes stopped being very funny?

—  Kevin D. Williamson is a deputy managing editor of National Review and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism, just published by Regnery. You can buy an autographed copy through National Review Online here.

Tags: Debt , Deficit , Despair , Egypt

Why Would an American President Tout Mubarak’s Regime?


Two weekends ago, I was at a wedding, and another guest mentioned that he was being “good,” and honoring his wife’s request that he not check his Blackberry or Twitter feed. Knowing that the Ravens-Steelers NFL Playoff game was underway, I asked him if he wanted to check it because he cared about Baltimore or Pittsburgh.

“Neither. Tunisia.”

“You have Tunisia in your fantasy league?”

This guest, a Middle East policy wonk at think tank, told me that his friends at the State Department were running around trying to get up to speed on the sudden changes in Tunisia; he chuckled and said he had told them that today they were desperately trying to understand Tunisia, tomorrow they would be taking credit for what happened, and within a short time, most of them and most of Washington will have forgotten about Tunisia.

Here we are, two weeks later, we’ve transfixed by a sudden uprising in another North African country. U.S. influence over events in Tunisia was negligible, and probably on par with the amount of U.S. interest in the long-term outlook for Tunisian politics. Obviously, U.S. influence over what happens in Egypt is limited, but it includes the roughly $1 billion in annual aid and a traditionally close – perhaps too close – relationship with a regime that suppresses dissent, controls the media, and does not hold free and fair elections.

The position of the government of the United States of America should never be to say to the side that’s using batons on demonstrators, “attaboy.”

The folks in the streets in Egypt include plenty of backers of the Muslim Brotherhood, aspiring Islamists, and garden-variety bad folk. But reports indicate the crowds include a large number of previously apolitical Egyptians who are fed up with three decades of governance that were not merely oppressive, but incompetent.  The Egyptian economy has never thrived; you know the usual figures – 40 percent get by on less than $2 per day. But when you pile rising wheat prices on an impoverished country, ordinary folks find the usual poor governance untenable. They have to eat, and have to believe there’s some small possibility of their lives getting better someday. Hosni Mubarak and his regime have worn out a decades-long benefit of the doubt from a people who historically were inclined to have tea, complain, and shrug rather than burn cars and take on riot police.

If you support the right of American Tea Partiers to gather together and protest their government, I don’t quite understand why you would deny the average Egyptian the same right. It’s not like angry Egyptians can write a letter to the editor or vote out their representatives to get better results. Even if the protesters are anti-Israeli, want a more Islamist government, and can repeat every bit of anti-American propaganda they’ve ever heard, who are we to say to them, “You deserve no better than Mubarak”?

As of this writing, the Mubarak regime appears to be tottering. He’s 82 years old and has had health problems. Even if he survives this challenge to his power. Mubarak will be gone someday; even if we preserve the status quo, we can’t preserve it for too much longer. And the status quo isn’t that great for American interests (when we’re the perpetual scapegoat in Egypt’s media).

It was shameful for Obama to hesitate and dawdle before endorsing the Iranian protesters, and it creates the awkward precedent for the Obama administration speaking sooner, and more positively, about protests against the government of an ally. But in the end, why would an American president tout the virtues of a regime that shoots unarmed protesters? Let Mubarak fall. He’s had his chance, and he has failed the Egyptian people.

Tags: Barack Obama , Egypt

Subscribe to National Review