Obama on Egypt: “All governments must maintain power through consent, not coercion.”

Without saying that Mubarak has to go, Obama makes it pretty clear that the U.S. won’t support him, or the Egyptian military, in doing what would be necessary for him to stay.

No, he doesn’t actually call for”our sunuvabitch” Hosni Mubarak to get on the next plane.

But the message ought to be clear enough to the Egyptian generals, who get a ton of U.S. money and who will decide by their actions whether Mubarak stays or goes.  The message is: the place has to change, and the government needs to stop the violence against protesters and turn the Internet and cell phones back on.

“A future that is more just, more free, and more hopeful” doesn’t really leave much room for Mubarak or his son.

Of course this – not Biden’s waffling - is what I wanted to hear. I’m convinced that foreign policy “realism” is not only immoral, but terribly unrealistic in its neglect of the long-term consequences of backing folks like the Shah.

But that doesn’t mean that it will work out well. It’s entirely conceivable that the regime that replaces Mubarak will be worse; that’s what happened in Iran. And it’s not likely that the Egyptians will be very grateful to the U.S. for supporting reform at the last minute, any more than the Iranians were for Jimmy Carter’s belated decision to stop backing the Shah.

Footnote The lunatic Obama-haters, who for a moment couldn’t figure out whether to denounce the President for “throwing an ally under the bus” and “caving in to Islamist extremism,” or instead for “not speaking out for democracy,” now have to go with Plan B.  Or they could denounce him both ways, just for good measure.

Update The Chairman of the House Republican Conference adopts the traditional Republican stance in favor of tyranny, as long as the tyrants are “on our side.” Franco, Chiang Kai-Shek, Salazar, Trujillo, Battista, the Somozas, the Greek colonels, Pinochet, the Argentinian colonels, the Shah, the Duvaliers, the South African National Party: an honor roll of scoundrels. And backing them often looks smart, in the short term.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

3 thoughts on “Obama on Egypt: “All governments must maintain power through consent, not coercion.””

  1. Well, at least the nice thing about taking the high road is that you get to be consistent. Which is something everyone else in the world has long seen through but us.

  2. Reality Based Community

    Note to Hosni Mubarak

    (Mark):"(Mark): “…the alternative to a corrupt autocracy could easily prove to be a corrupt, theocratic, anti-American autocracy. But the short-term gains from propping up one of “our sonsofbitches” have to be weighed against the long-term costs of further alienating those Egyptians who agree with Americans in disliking tyranny.

    (Malcolm): "Trite but true. National alliances normally mix immediate interest, long term interest, and ideology. Note the passive voice: “have to be weighed”. Did Professor Kleiman take a similarly analytical and dispassionate view of US support for dictators during Republican administrations, I wonder. I will be back in six years to see if Professor Kleiman responds with equal dispassion and passivity when President Palin similarly holds a US response in reserve when another dictatorial US ally totters."

    Six years? I did not have to wait six days:…

    (Mark): "The Chairman of the House Republican Conference adopts the traditional Republican stance in favor of tyranny, as long as the tyrants are “on our side.” Franco, Chiang Kai-Shek, Salazar, Trujillo, Battista, the Somozas, the Greek colonels, Pinochet, the Argentinian colonels, the Shah, the Duvaliers, the South African National Party: an honor roll of scoundrels. And backing them often looks smart, in the short term."

  3. "And it’s not likely that the Egyptians will be very grateful to the U.S. for supporting reform at the last minute, any more than the Iranians were for Jimmy Carter’s belated decision to stop backing the Shah."

    And they should be grateful? Especially when it's American tear gas that's hitting them, and American/Israeli tech that cut off their communications?

    My god, this takes "american exceptionalism" to a whole new level.

    Perhaps next we could have a post on why the Poles ought to love the Russians because, after all, in 1989 Russia DIDN'T invade?

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