Saturday, February 12, 2011

Where Was Hillary?

It was obvious for the last several days that Egyptian President Mubarak's days in office were numbered. So why wasn't Secretary of State over there negotiating his resignation? Instead she was in Washington meeting with members of the House of Representatives who control the State Department's budget.

When protests erupted in the Philippines during the 1980s, President Reagan's administration was in the middle of it. They negotiated President Marcos's resignation and offered him asylum in the US in exchange for a quick and orderly transition. The US looked like heroes.

In Egypt we were reduced to spectators. The head of national security got his assessment of the situation from TV.

The Obama administration could have strong-armed its way in. We send a billion and a half dollars a year to Egypt and supply them with US arms. That gives us a lot of leverage. Why didn't we use it?

One possibility is President Obama's sensitivity to colonialism. He didn't want to be the big superpower forcing its will on an African country. But this was his chance to do good and to help put the US on the side of good. Instead he is on the sidelines and is unlikely to apply any leverage to the new Egyptian government.

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