Leave It To The Experts

Monday, February 14, 2011

I ran across this op-ed in the Washington Post: In post-Mubarak Egypt, the rebirth of the Arab world, by Hussein Agha and Robert Malley.

All jokes about trusting the name "Hussein" aside, I found this to be quite a cogent take on "what this all means" by a couple of guys who, by a quick check of the CVs online, know just what they're talking about.

If I could sum it up in a couple lines, it'd be: the U.S. rhetoric is right; people really do want self-government. The People of the middle east see that their governments are puppets of the West and they, as citizens, are forgotten. If we play our cards right (we = U.S.), we have a new ally in an old ally. But the most important part of the world's long-term prospects in the Middle East is to support the democratic movement, even if it means we don't always love who's in power at the moment. We have to let go of our narrow interest.

As for me, I agree with some of that, but not all of it. I think the U.S. can and should lead (as soon as possible) a deal that includes not only Egyptian self-government, but reaches into Israel and Palestine as well.

I then ran across this NYT piece (via Balloon Juice), that tied the whole region together - Egypt, Israel, and Palestine - and makes the point in the end that total regional peace and democracy is actually achievable, if Obama takes advantage of the negotiations between Palestine and Israel, for whom the Egyptian upheaval is the most noteworthy beyond the Egyptians themselves. Israel sees this as a possible threat. Palestine sees it as a huge opportunity, and war could result if this isn't handles as carefully as apparently Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas had in 2008.

My worry is that the Obama Administration, despite Hillary Clinton's best efforts, might not have the chops to pull this off. I don't agree with the conservative talking-head rhetoric that the Administration was neutered in all of this; that oversimplifies it, is quite simply the politics of "THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT HE SAID IS RIGHT!, and clearly, Obama is committed to allowing people to forge their own initiatives towards Democracy (that's what his Cairo speech was about). The commitment exists. It's whether or not this issue overwhelms this Administration that worries me. A lost opportunity here, as was apparently lost in 2008 (according to the NYT article linked above), leads to more disaster in the Mideast.

All this to say that I have no damn clue what I am talking about when it comes to Middle East affairs, but what these guys are saying sits well with my untrained, barely-educated ear.


steves 8:57 AM  

This is a fantastic opportunity and I am more optimistic the more I read about what is happening. Unlike the Iranian revolution of 1979, this is not motivated solely by anti-western religious fervor. Egypt, prior to Sadat and Mubarak, was a relatively progressive country. It appears that many people genuinely want democracy.

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