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February 11, 2011

Credit Where Credit Is Due, Obama Played This Beautifully
Posted by Michael Cohen

First things first; this is an extraordinary day and while it's a bit trite to salute the people of Egypt . . . I salute the people of Egypt. I think President Obama summed it up best in his remarks today:

The word "tahrir" means "liberation." It is a word that speaks to that something in our souls that cries out for freedom. And forevermore, it will remind us of the Egyptian people: of what they did, of the things that they stood for, and how they changed their country, and in doing so changed the world.

Yup. And now a word about the Obama Administration. At times I've been fairly critical of this president's handling of foreign policy, but credit must be given - this Administration handled this situation about as deftly as possible. This was truly an American diplomatic tour de force.

From the beginning the White House was caught betwixt and between - not wanting to be seen supporting the status quo, particularly when the winds of change seemed to be blowing in the direction of reform and yet at the same time not be seen as throwing a key ally under the bus. 

And while obviously critics can point to individual mistakes (Wisner's wandering off the reservation, Panetta's bizarre comment yesterday in congressional testimony that Mubarak was out the door) on the whole this Administration did a really excellent job - sending public signs that a crackdown would not be acceptable, working the military behind closed doors, trying to ensure a soft landing that wouldn't lead to violence, but still never backing down from the public position that an immediate transition to democracy (and not one in September) was the only acceptable course. (I'll be curious to see the impact of Obama's statement last night on Mubarak and the Egyptian military, but it was absolutely spot-on).

In a sense we helped throw Mubarak under the bus without directly delivering the push (a fact that I'm sure will leave many a non-democratic US ally a tad less secure this evening - which is good).

As Marc Lynch wisely points out the Administration basically followed the lead of the Egyptian people and didn't try to get too far ahead of what was actually happening on the ground.

To this point they didn't overplay their hand or overstate their own influence or demand too much from the government or the protesters. They played it about as well as can be expected, calibrating public and private pressure - and all this while being cognizant of the host of obvious constraints on US actions and words. They seemed to understand something that a lot of the armchair pundits couldn't quite grasp; this wasn't about us and we were, if anything, a bit player in this drama.

And then after all that, President Obama delivered a speech today that was absolutely pitch perfect - one of the best of his presidency (Ben Rhodes take a bow). Most deftly, even though we've supported the Egyptian regime for more than 30 years Obama was able to place the United States, rhetorically, on the same side as those in Tahrir Square - and it actually seems to ring true.

From a diplomatic standpoint this section of Obama's speech was particularly smart:

The military has served patriotically and responsibly as a caretaker to the state, and will now have to ensure a transition that is credible in the eyes of the Egyptian people. That means protecting the rights of Egypt's citizens, lifting the emergency law, revising the constitution and other laws to make this change irreversible, and laying out a clear path to elections that are fair and free. Above all, this transition must bring all of Egypt's voices to the table, for the spirit of peaceful protest and perseverance that the Egyptian people have shown can serve as a powerful wind at the back of this change.

This is exactly the right tone going forward; praising the military but at the same laying out the expectation that their stewardship of the country will be temporary and will lead to a democratic transition. 

Of course, none of us know what will happen in the weeks and months to come, but for at least one day this Administration and his advisors should take a victory lap. 

 

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Comments

Smart analysis, although no Egyptian protester would agree. I'd add Clinton's "Egypt's government is stable" to the list of individual mistakes - that one was particularly glaring.

Strange world, a brutal dictator is overthrown by a military junta and now the left is calling that progress.

Do you really believe that Mubarak really "handed over" power to the Generals? If so I have some ocean front property for sale in western Arizona, you can have it cheap.

beefeater, where do you get the idea that a dictator was overthrown by a junta? That's very '80's Reagan thinking.

Military conscription is mandatory in Egypt, and most everyone there has a family member who was or has been in the military. It's different from the adventures of Reagan in the Americas.

They have promised a transition. Give them the chance to make good on that promise. The people of Egypt probably have more of an idea about how good this is for tham than you do.

These all are one of the great idea that can be give them a chance and these all things are great to know about it.

I can see that you are placing a lots of efforts in to your blog. Keep publishing the good work.A few really helpful information inside. Bookmarked. Nice to visit your site. Thanks!

Obama has always been good with words

I love you, noise cancelling headphones.

Col. Patrick Lang
"Now there is an extra-legal, extra-constitutional regime in charge governing under the authority of NO law. The junta has dissolved the parliament and fired the cabinet. The emergency law is no longer needed. The only law is the will of the generals. Since he was not mentioned in today's statement, I would think that Omar Suleiman will have little or no role. Let us hope that the generals are benevolent. 1952 comes to mind. The Egyptian Armed forces have only two political traditions. 1- They overthrew the monarchy in a similar soft coup in 1952 and 2- They have ruled Egypt ever since.

I just heard someone ask Robert Gibbs if Obama had called anyone in Egypt since the resignation. Who would he call, the head of the junta?"
-----------

The Guardian

Egypt's new military administration and the pro-democracy protesters who brought down Hosni Mubarak are at odds over the path to democratic rule.

The army sought to stave off pressure from jubilant protesters to swiftly hand power to a civilian-led administration by saying that it was committed to a "free democratic state".

The military leadership gave no timetable for the political transition, and many of the demonstrators who filled Cairo's Tahrir Square for 18 days rejected the military's appeal to dismantle the barricades and go home.
------

(Reuters) - White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Friday it was important that the next government of Egypt recognize the country's peace accord signed with the government of Israel.
[The Army agrees. What if the people of Egypt don't?]
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The entire post is a lie.

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I also like this policy and also it is much interesting and also attractive and beneficial. Obama is a very great person for everything.

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