February 09, 2011

Two Views on Obama and Egypt

I give the Washington Post a hard time, but today I'll give them some credit where it is due: on the op-ed page today, Jackson Diehl makes the argument that the Obama Administration has erred gravely with regard to Egypt, and right next to him, George Will makes the argument that people like Jackson Diehl are out of their damn minds:

Those Americans who know which Republican will win next year's Iowa caucuses can complain about those who did not know that when a Tunisian street vendor set himself on fire, he would set a region afire. From all other Americans, forbearance would be seemly.

George Will's real target, I must hasten to add, is not so much Diehl as it is his fellow conservatives.

...there is a cottage industry of Barack Obama critics who, not content with monitoring his myriad mistakes in domestic policies, insist that there must be a seamless connection of those with his foreign policy. Strangely, these critics, who correctly doubt the propriety and capacity of the U.S. government controlling our complex society, simultaneously fault the government for not having vast competence to shape the destinies of other societies.

Obviously, I have more sympathy for Will's argument than I do for Diehl's criticism of the Obama Administration. (That having been said, Diehl has been a consistent advocate for aggressive American democracy promotion in the Middle East, so he is hardly some Johnny-come-lately critic of the administration on this.)

Anyway, neither Diehl nor Will are recognized experts on Egyptian politics, but they are both careful observers and critics of U.S. foreign policy, and I applaud the Post for airing such divergent views right next to one another on their op-ed page this morning.

You know who is a recognized expert on Egyptian politics, though? Josh Stacher. I tweeted this a few days back when it was first published, but Josh's analysis in Foreign Affairs deserves a wide readership. This is a cold bucket of ice water thrown on all the excitement created by the events in Tahrir Square.

(Once your hopes are down after reading Josh's analysis, go here for a fresh jolt of optimism. Well, "optimism" isn't quite the right word, but Wael will fire you up.)