With questions about exactly how and when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will leave the scene and who will replace him still up in the air, today’s papers and blogs are full of interesting writing on the subject.
In the Washington Post, former U.S. peace negotiator Aaron David Miller explains why Israel, which “prides itself on being the Middle East’s only true democracy,” fears the idea of “self-government spreading to Egypt, their most important Arab ally.”
He writes: “today, it is impossible to overstate the angst, even hysteria, that Israelis are feeling about their neighborhood as they watch what is unfolding in the streets of Cairo.”
Israel’s worst fears are unlikely to be realized, Miller says – but “there’s no doubt that a new Egyptian government and president, more responsive to public opinion – indeed, legitimized by the public in free elections – will be, by necessity or inclination, far more critical of Israeli actions and policies and far less likely to give Israel the benefit of any doubts.”
And that probably means less cooperation in stopping smuggling across the Egypt-Gaza border and more support for Hamas.
“The irony is that the challenges a new Egypt will pose to America and Israel won’t come from the worst-case scenarios imagined by frantic policymakers and intelligence analysts – an extremist Muslim takeover, an abrogation of peace treaties, the closing of the Suez Canal – but from the very values of participatory government and free speech that free societies so cherish,” Miller writes. “In a more open Egypt, diverse voices reflecting Islamist currents and secular nationalists will be louder. And by definition, these voices will be more critical of America and Israel.”
I always like Miller’s takes on current Middle East issues; unlike so many other commentators, he knows the players and has been involved in their discussions, yet approaches each issue with a remarkable lack of ideological rigidity.
Over at the online publication Politics Daily, analyst David Wood has an ominous piece about what a new, less friendly government in Cairo might mean for U.S.-Egyptian security cooperation
Washington strategists rely on Egypt on a range of pressing Middle East matters, including the effort to contain Iran; it needs Egyptian cooperation for “shipping air and sea cargo, refueling and repairing aircraft and consolidating troop movements narrowed to those along the Persian Gulf,” Wood writes.
You can bet folks at the Pentagon are spending a lot of long days and nights figuring out how a less friendly government in Cairo will affect U.S. strategic realities in the Middle East.
At Politico, the forever savvy Laura Rozen describes how the Obama administration is walking away from comments by its special envoy to Egypt, Frank Wisner, suggesting that Hosni Mubarak may need to stay in power a while to approve needed constitutional reforms.
Wisner’s comments came as the administration seemed to be moving toward demanding an orderly – but quick – power transition in Cairo led by Vice President Gen. Omar Suleiman, the former defense chief, so it’s no wonder the White House is upset.
Reflecting the growing gap between Jewish neo-conservatives and the government of Israel on the subject, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol takes fellow conservative Charles Krauthammer to task for his “cautious” approach to the question of Egyptian democracy.
And Kristol tears into conservative commentator Glenn Beck: “[h]ysteria is not a sign of health. When Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society. He’s marginalizing himself, just as his predecessors did back in the early 1960s.”
The Washington Post’s David Broder brings in both the historical perspective and a sports analogy to explain the Obama administration’s powerlessness – and concludes that as the Egypt crisis unfolds, “[y]ou know that something big is happening and that it will inevitably affect you. But you don’t know whom to root for, and ultimately you realize that events will unfold and you have almost no influence on the outcome. That is the reality that confronts President Obama today. His hands are tied while Egypt erupts.”
Conservatives, many commentators report, are chomping at the bit to blame Egypt’s chaos on President Obama; Broder says you have to look at generations worth of history to understand what’s happening there now, and why this administration has so little leverage.