Friday, January 28, 2011

Vice President Fail

Honest to goodness, what a jackass:

"I would not refer to him [Mubarak] as a dictator."

This brings me back to my go-to axiom of American foreign policy: whatever Joe Biden says, take the exact opposite and that is probably best.

I know that Egypt has been an important American ally, because we have to deal with the world as it is. That means cozying up to some less than scrupulous characters from time to time (actually, on a pretty regular basis). Nevertheless, Mubarak is certainly a dictator, and his policies are almost certainly not good for the Egyptian people. If Biden didn't want to throw Mubarak under the bus outright, he could have just declined to answer the question: "I'm going to let the Egyptians deal with their own internal affairs" would have been a sufficient response.

Egypt has been especially important as it relates to the peace process between Israel and Palestine, but even there its pretty clear that Mubarak is a net negative. This should transcend partisan opinion pretty easily - remember that this was the entire premise of the neoconservative invasion of Iraq. As the neocon story goes, Arabs are angry because they are not free, and so that anger is channeled by their leaders at Israel. If we free the Arabs and give them democracy, they can prosper and the animosity at Israel disappears. I actually subscribe to this sort of thinking, but where neoconservatives and I part ways is whether America should intervene militarily to spread democracy in Arab countries: I didn't think we should in the case of Iraq.

Back to Egypt, I think everyone agrees that Mubarak is a net negative for American policies in the region, but we keep him propped up because we are worried about a worse alternative. Perhaps our worst fear would be a Muslim-brotherhood Hamas-type government taking power, cutting off ties with Israel, talking about war, and generally destabilizing the region. That is a small risk risk if Mubarak goes, but I think we make that outcome MORE likely by blatantly supporting Mubarak, which only increases anti-American sentiment. Maybe we should take a step back and let the Egyptians go their own way, and promise to help and engage them no matter which direction they go. In the short term, they may even move in a direction that we are less than enthusiastic about, but in the longer term we can win them back.

Of course, I don't necessarily think Mubarak is going to fall, but its certainly possible, and we should be thinking about what to do if he does.

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