Thursday, February 10, 2011

Flying the Coup

Well so much for giving the Obama Administration credit for not taking sides in the Egyptian revolution quagmire. Talk about not quitting while you’re ahead. Let’s see if we can piece together the events of the last two weeks shall we.

First, the Obama Administration quietly put pressure on Hosni Mubarak to usher in reforms, while taking great pains not to be seen as favoring one side over the other. Laudable and wise, given the circumstances surrounding the unrest. It’s always best to walk before you run, especially when you can’t see the path ahead and you don’t yet have all the facts.

But then the Administration apparently got caught up in all the excitement of the moment and dove headfirst into the mess. Obama publicly called for Mubarak to step down, the first sign that the Administration was siding with the protesters. The only problem was that his special envoy, Frank Wisner, contradicted both his president and the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, by insisting that Mubarak needs to stay on to “steer” the changes necessary for a democratic transition.

It didn’t take long for the State Department to circle the wagons and issue a statement. “We have great respect for Frank Wisner … but his views are his own and not coordinated with the US government.” Ya think? Can anybody spell clusterf**k?

To say this is the worst two-week period in Barack Obama’s relatively short political life would be putting it mildly. Not only did he commit the ultimate cardinal sin by showing his hand in a dispute that promises to be messy no matter how things turn out, he couldn’t even ensure that all his troops were on the same page when he committed the sin. And now his administration and the country are left with egg on their face.

Add to that today’s events, which plunge the story from the proverbial frying pan to the fire, and you’ve got a potential disaster brewing in one of the few Arab countries where Americans aren’t hated. Not only isn’t Mubarak stepping down, he’s drawn a defiant line in the sand and basically dared anyone and everyone to step over it. Earlier it had been reported that Mubarak was on the verge of resigning and turning over control of the country to the military; a move hailed by the protesters as a victory. But now all that appears to have gone up in smoke. Mubarak is staying, at least for now, and the Obama Administration finds itself in damage control mode.

Critics on the Right and Left are having a field day with the President and rightly so. It is rare in deed when I agree with anyone on the Right, but the cavalcade of criticism, this time, is well deserved. The irony is that if Obama had simply maintained his stance, and quietly worked behind the scenes with the Mubarak regime, the dictator might have been persuaded to peaceably step down and turn over control of his country to a more moderate and democratically-minded group. Now we may never know what would’ve happened. Once more, the United States has meddled in the affairs of another country and once more it has screwed up royally.

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