Widespread and coordinated violence in Cairo instigated by the Mubarak government has intensified the Egyptian crisis. Events appear to be getting ahead of the Obama administration, which so far seems to have followed a country-by-country realpolitik approach to the historic wave of unrest sweeping Arab states: we assess the strength of each side — dictatorial U.S. ally versus popular movement — and try to back the winner. Thus, in Egypt, in the space of a week or so as demonstrations have swelled, we have gone from support for Mubarak, to a vague demand that a process of change begin immediately, to a gap between rhetoric and reality that suggests we are not sure what to do. Rhetoric: “Mr. Gibbs once again raising the specter of a cutoff of American aid to the Mubarak government if the Egyptian president failed to bend.” Reality (or denial of reality in this case):
Q: Do we have evidence or indications that some of this violence is being instigated by the government? MR. GIBBS: I have not been — I have not seen the latest on that in terms of whether or not we do, Wendell. I don’t know the answer to that.
What a ludicrous statement, at odds with both common sense and virtually every report from Egypt. Has Mubarak condemned the violence by thugs acting in his name against the peaceful, pro-democracy protesters, or publicly ordered the Army, which he commands, to try to stop it? No. To the contrary, soldiers waved busloads of armed thugs through checkpoints and into the square.
We should learn from our disastrous experience in Iran. The CIA-instigated 1953 coup that overthrew the elected government, followed by decades of U.S. support for the brutal dictatorship of the Shah produced a reaction that continues to injure our national interest. To reduce the possibility of a similar result in Egypt, and perhaps also in Yemen and elsewhere, the U.S. should cite the violence in Tahrir Square as cause for Mubarak to step down immediately. Current events are reminiscent of the last, desperate attempts of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu to cling to power when he dispatched thugs to beat protesters. That failed. They stand in contrast to China’s tragic use of the army itself in 1989, which succeeded.
the Republicans are John McCain is ahead of Obama here (for Fox/RNC position, see comment below). I suspect that is because he is not president, so talk is cheap. Republican Dwight Eisenhower, for example, approved the Iran coup, and George W. Bush didn’t stand with Mubarak’s opponents to any substantive degree during his presidency. Still, credit where it is due.