As I have written in previous posts, the Obama administration is in a tough spot on how strongly Egyptian President Mubarak should be supported. The U.S. has sent billions of dollars to aid Egypt - read Mubarak - for years and he has been a somewhat reliable ally in the Middle East. The Bush doctrine of promoting freedom among those oppressed around the world is providing much fruit, as of late. Yeman, Tunsia, Iran have all faced uprises.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration has not provided leadership on the world stage for human rights and promoting democracy. Time and time again the response from this administration has been detached, late and weak.
Several men have been promoted as the next leader in Egypt. Egyptian dissident Mohamed ElBaradei returned to Egypt in hopes of seizing the reins of power in his native country. The next day it was reported he was place under house arrest. It is not clear if these reports of house arrest are correct. He was seen walking with protesters in Cairo.
As for the U.S., ElBaradei said the leadership had fallen short of Egyptians' expectations.
"What is ... very disappointing to the Egyptian people is the message coming from the U.S., which is saying that we are going to work with the Egyptian people and with the government," he said. "Well, you have to make a choice. This is an authoritarian government and on the other hand the people have been deprived of their freedom for 58 years."
In general, ElBaradei predicted the situation would worsen before it got any better. "Things do not look good here," he said. "People are very frustrated and I think the situation will escalate in my view."
It is not helpful that Vice President Biden said during a television interview last Thursday that he would not characterize Mubarak as a dictator. Another public gaffe by the man who was touted as this administration's foreign policy expert. This statement could not have been taken well by the people of Egypt.
Hillary Clinton appeared on all the Sunday morning talk shows trying her best to articulate strong support for democratic reforms in Egypt without openly advocating for Mubarak's removal from office.
In November 2003, then President George W. Bush asked this: "Are the peoples of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty? Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism? Are they alone never to know freedom and never even to have a choice in the matter?"
A deputy national security adviser in the Bush administration now says the freedom agenda is bearing fruit. "Angry Friday" brought tens of thousands of Egyptians into the streets all over the country, and they have remained there all weekend, demanding the end of the Mubarak regime. The huge and once-feared police forces were soon overwhelmed and the Army called in. Even if these demonstrations are crushed, Egypt has a president who will be 83 at the time of this fall's presidential election. Every day Hosni Mubarak survives in power now, he does so as dictator propped up by brute force alone. Election of his son Gamal as his successor is already a sour joke, and it is increasingly unlikely that Egypt's ruling elites, civilian and military, will wish to tie their future to Hosni Mubarak rather than seeking new faces.
His freedom agenda demanded better for the oppressed of the world. Bush was mocked by the Democrats as naive and using the freedom agenda to justify the removal of Saddam Hussein. Bush said: "Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe - because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty," Bush said. "As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment and violence ready for export."
We must now hope that the Obama administration is up to the challenge. They have appeared slow and flat in previous foreign crisis. This upheaval is particularly important to us as Egypt has been a moderately strong ally for us in the region and it borders the Suez Canal. That is the path to oil exportation.
After appearing on the Sunday morning shows, Hillary Clinton flew to Haiti. And, Saturday night brought reports of Barack Obama at a farewell party for David Axelrod with the press in attendance.
Is this the public show of support to the Egyptians that will make them feel secure in our backing?