Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 28, 2011

PREPARING FOR REGIME CHANGE?.... Commenting on today's White House press briefing with Robert Gibbs, Ben Smith noted, "Robert Gibbs, like all White House press secretaries, takes great care with his words, but I'm not sure I've ever seen him taking quite this much care, referring to notes from phrase to phrase, as he is in this afternoon's briefing on Egypt."*

The words Gibbs chose to use, however, very likely sent international ripples.

The Obama administration threatened on Friday to reduce a $1.5 billion program of foreign aid to Egypt based on President Hosni Mubarak's response to swelling street protests in Cairo and other cities.

"Violence is not the response" to the demands for greater freedoms, said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Gibbs said President Barack Obama had been briefed extensively about the fast-unfolding events but had not tried to speak with Mubarak by phone. Asked why not, Gibbs said that "we're monitoring a very fluid situation."

I suppose there's more than one way to read that, but to my ear, it was language suggesting the Obama administration doesn't expect the Mubarak government to survive the popular revolt.

Asked whether U.S. officials have a preference about the makeup of the Egyptian government, Gibbs said, "I don't want to project into the future. I don't think that would be a wise use of my time. The government of Egypt is an issue for the people of Egypt."

The White House spokesperson had plenty of opportunities to express support for Mubarak and the current Egyptian government. He did not.

The briefing came just hours after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton read a carefully-worded statement that publicly called for the Egyptian government to allow peaceful protests to continue without a violent response -- a call Mubarak did not honor.

It's no secret that the U.S. has long seen Mubarak as a key regional ally in one of largest and most important countries in the Arab world, though that alliance has been tempered by the realization that the Egyptian regime is authoritarian and undemocratic.

As of this afternoon, the evidence suggests the Obama administration is prepared to see a new day in Egypt, which is no small shift.

* updated

Steve Benen 4:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (16)

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Comments

Moments ago, Richard Engle, reporting from Cairo, said that several limousines arrived at the VIP terminal, where a number of private jets were ready for take-off. The pilots, he said, were instructed to keep their engines running.

Looks like the Top Cats are fleeing the Mice.

Posted by: DAY on January 28, 2011 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

After the assassination of Sadat, we looked to Mubarak, but even he could not turn back the authoritarian tendency to weld power! Now, thirty years later, the people are feeling strong enough to speak out, and what is the response by an authoritarian regime? Why violence of course!

To the people of the world, please read Eyeless in Gaza (A. Huxley) - the end never justifies the means, but rather the means itself becomes the end! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on January 28, 2011 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

Troops (army) entering the city were greeted with cheers, and rank and file police are removing their uniforms, and joining the protesters. Let us hope a bloodbath will be avoided.

Posted by: DAY on January 28, 2011 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

keep in mind that Egypt is the keeper of the Suez Canal.....a relatively important waterway. The US would be wise to make their moves with that in mind.

Posted by: T2 on January 28, 2011 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Moments ago, Richard Engle, reporting from Cairo, said that several limousines arrived at the VIP terminal, where a number of private jets were ready for take-off. The pilots, he said, were instructed to keep their engines running.

Wow.

Troops (army) entering the city were greeted with cheers, and rank and file police are removing their uniforms, and joining the protesters. Let us hope a bloodbath will be avoided.

Wow, double wow. And yes, that sounds positive. Yay for some sense prevailing.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on January 28, 2011 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

@Kevo: "The way you gain it is the way you must maintain it." st john-I don't have the actual attribution,so will take credit until I hear otherwise.
Too bad the U.S. does not follow it's own advice about violence as a solution and the stifling of peaceful protest. We are reaching a place where the former powerful are facing the blowback of their prior actions. Change is in the wind and it will not be stopped.

May peace prevail on earth.
st john

Posted by: st john on January 28, 2011 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

Obama's speech to the Middle East is paying off.

Posted by: Bob M on January 28, 2011 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "It's no secret that the U.S. has long seen Mubarak as a key regional ally in one of largest and most important countries in the Arab world, though that alliance has been tempered by the realization that the Egyptian regime is authoritarian and undemocratic."

But if the USA ends its decades-long policy of supporting corrupt, authoritarian and undemocratic regimes in the Arab world, then the terrorists win.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 28, 2011 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

The issue that I haven't seen adequately addressed is who will take over if the current regime falls.

Will it be Muslim fundamentalists? Will it be pro-western/anti-western?

Posted by: Objective Dem on January 28, 2011 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

I think SecularAnimist has it right. The "terrorists," in many cases, are actually the pro-democracy and freedom-loving patriots that were once greatly admired in this country. Once in power, those who take control through violence and terror, in a "good cause," become the oppressors. When the military and police begin to see their own families and loved ones victimized by the powers that employ them, they do, indeed, remove their uniforms and join with the oppressed to challenge the authoritarians. There appears to be a cycle taking place as the shifts in power move back and forth. As long as the solution is violence, the cycle will repeat itself. As I said on an earlier thread, "The way you gain it is the way you must maintain it." There is a greater chance that peace will prevail when the new governors acceed to power peacefully.

Posted by: st john on January 28, 2011 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

St. John,

I like the quote "the way you gain it is the way you must maintain it" However I would take out the "must"

Posted by: Objective Dem on January 28, 2011 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

The final vestiges of our facade of credibility in that region are being pulled down. It's time to allow the people and cultures of the Middle East find a solution on their own and live with the consequences.

If any mediator is needed, it should be from an international organization with real power and credibility. That may not currently exist, but when there's a will, there's a way.

Posted by: bdop4 on January 28, 2011 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

The real loser if Egypt goes the way of Tunesia is Israel, and the Israelis certainly know it. On that basis I find it hard to believe that Obama is straddling the issue so carefully, although the administration may know that Mubarak's remaining days are few. We have been bribing the corrupt Egyptians for decades to keep the peace with israel, and that is now an open issue.

If there is a change of government in Egypt it won't be long before we're bribing the new one as well, but the likelihood that any new Egyptian government is friendly to the US is vanishingly small.

The Israelis rule. Don't forget it. They are in this right up to their eyeballs.

Posted by: rrk1 on January 28, 2011 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

Tonight on NBC News, Richard Engel (an old hand in Cairo) in the midst of tear gas, a gassed protester holding on to him for support and then Richard runs off tearing from a close hit .... Later he shows a tear gas cannister, "Made in USA". The people are collecting them, drawing their inferences. Not smart, was it? And again, Islamist extremists may end up profiting from US/Israeli triangulations.

Posted by: neil b on January 28, 2011 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

Objective Dem: I use the work "must" with a reason: While all of us are at choice in every decision we make, how one attains something generally dictates how they will retain it. The people on Wall St. are not likely to suddenly return their bonuses or donate them to the millions who lack even the basics for a decent life. They certainly can afford to live well and still give back substantial portions of their wealth, but they don't. If you ask them why, they will probably tell you that those people didn't earn it and will not use it well. It is not a Universal Principle, but it requires a shift in consciousness to realize that there is another way that is in direct contrast to the initial thinking.
Here is another principle that is Universal: Change your thinking and you will change your life.
Try it! It works!

Posted by: st john on January 28, 2011 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

What scares me (on top of all the obvious things that can go wrong here) is that the right has created an environment that has empowered something of a doomsday cult that is going to view this particular administration's getting on the right side of history here as fulfillment of prophecy. These people used to be the lunatic fringe but the Republican party has drifted so far to the right that these wackos dare not be offended. And it has always been on the fringes of these sorts of religious movements that madness lies. We have just seen the results of mixing madness, rage and politics in Arizona.

Posted by: SW on January 29, 2011 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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