Egypt Political Turmoil | A Leadership Challenge for President Obama | An Independent Voters View
It would be fair to say that I have been fairly critical of the leadership skills of our President. I should mention that in the area of foreign affairs he has done a bit better than in the domestic arena. He has followed through on the plan for our withdrawal from Iraq in an orderly way, and stepped up the pressure on the Taliban with both a surge on the ground, and an increase in the predator strikes on the insurgent leadership hiding out in Pakistan. Early indications are that it is having the desired effect but the true measure will be in the coming spring when ‘Fighting Weather’ comes to Afghanistan and the mountain passes are more open to insurgent traffic. War is a fluid thing and what seems right at the time sometimes doesn’t work out in the way it is planned, so I commend the President on the process but it is too early to applaud the result. As an American I hope in a years time I will be able to do both.
The current turmoil in Egypt has us (the US) between the proverbial rock and a hard place. On the one hand President Mubarak has been a faithful ally and a pivotal player on the Israeli and Palestinian problem. On the other as an American you cannot help but feel an affinity with the people of Egypt who are trying to break some of the political chains of what is essentially a dictatorship that is now in it’s thirtieth year. A more open democracy is a great ideal but we also have to recognize that groups like The Muslim Brotherhood, or for that matter Iran’s Al Quds, or by proxy Hezbollah, have the capability to hijack this grassroots movement, if they haven’t started to already, and ultimately turn it into something that is neither good for Egypt or the rest of the world.
The economics of the Suez Canal play a central role in our need to help foster and develop an orderly transition of power in Egypt. One seventh of the world’s goods move through the canal, and its shutdown would mean an immediate increase in the costs of pretty much everything; but most particularly in the price of oil. So far things on the canal have been stable and I think the unsung heroes in this is the Egyptian Army.
The Army is the primary institution of trust in Egypt. That is how Mubarak came to power and I would suspect that his replacement would as well. If not from the Army, than the Air Force, either way a military branch will likely be the source of leadership. His Intel Chief, Gen Sulieman, that he has appointed Vice President may be the guy to lead the transition but the fact that Mubarak has appointed him means he will not be the one to move the country beyond a transition.
Some talk of Mohammed El Baredi being the leader the Egyptians want to shape a new government is developing and it is mixed with the idea that he is in talks with the Muslim Brotherhood. The word that is getting out from the relatives of Egyptians here in the US is an Islamic Republic is not what they want. But whether or not that is accurate remains to be seen. All of these complications make this a difficult leadership problem for the president with limited opportunities to affect the outcome.
So it seems to me this may be one of those times when quiet diplomacy, may serve the President and the Egyptians best. We do have $1Billion in annual aid as leverage, and over the years have developed a close relationship with the Egyptian Military. I would counsel our own press and pundits to keep a more measured eye on the expectations of these events, and allow some time for these efforts to bear fruit. As an American I hope the President is able to facilitate a good solution for Egypt that bodes well for the rest of the world, God’s Speed to you sir.
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