Thursday, February 3, 2011

Obama and Egypt

I saw Hillary Clinton on two different Sunday morning talk shows this past Sunday. She was asked by both which side the United States is on, "Mubarak or the demonstrators in the streets". She replied there is a third choice, which is the legitimate democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people. She went on to say that the U.S. for more than 30 years has been urging Egypt to be more democratic.

What galls me is that nobody has followed up and asked the obvious question, which is "Why do we give so much aid to a regime which we claim needs to change?" Egypt receives the second-most aid of any country, behind only Israel, and over a billion dollars a year goes for military aid. If we were serious these last 30 years about urging change on Egypt, as Hillary says we have been, why didn't we condition the aid on the needed changes being made?

And with a peace treaty with Israel in place, and not being attacked by any foreign country, why has Egypt needed this outrageous amount of military aid? During the cold war we justified it because we were competing with the Soviet Union for Egypt's affection. But wake up, U.S., in case you haven't heard, the Cold War is over!!

It seems we are always reacting, and never acting in a proactive way. We react to events, usually ignoring our experts who have seen trouble coming a mile away. And when we do react, it is a pussy-footing, middle-of-the-road response like Obama gave the other night, urging everybody to stay peaceful. Obama might as well have stayed silent as to deliver that namby-pamby, say-nothing excuse for a speech.

This leads me into what is one of the best analyses of the Presidency I have ever read. It was an article in the Christian Science Monitor for 1/24/11, entitled "What does Obama really believe?". Following are portions I have highlighted, and they are fairly self-explanatory.

"Obama surfed into the White House on a wave of seeming principle: change, bipartisanship, reason, deliberation, pragmatism. What we didn't realize is that all these concepts are methodological. They concern the process of forming public policy. But they are not bedrock principles upon which we can orient the ends of government. They are so general that they provide little analytical or moral traction."

"When he compromises, when he reaches policy conclusions, there's no sense that it derives from anything other than ad hoc balancing. There is no well of enduring principle upon which he seems to draw. Even if he's a pragmatist, eschewing universal principles in favor of context-specific values and concerns, we still don't know what those temporal values and concerns are, or why he believes in them."

"A president with a weak sense of his own principles weakens our sense of our principles. We begin to lose our national identity, and our political system loses legitimacy. If we are a community that merely aggregates narrow, sectarian interests or simply maximizes "what works" in a pragmatic fashion, we aren't much of a community at all....Obama's presidency is still young. Its success depends on 'Obamanism' meaning something clear, bold, and convincing for future generations. For a nation built on common principle, not common blood, requires its leaders to have a coherent political theory."

Never has the problem with Obama been articulated so well. His speeches don't resonate or inspire because there is no passion behind his words, only an "on the one hand, on the other hand" sort of wishy-washy quality, and his speech on Egypt is only the latest example of this.

No comments: