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Obama and the Happy Dictator

One thing to be said about Barack Obama’s efforts at outreach in the Muslim world: there’s at least one dictator who is just delighted. As the New York Times reports of the visit to the White House by Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak:

The meeting between the two presidents, their third, was marked by a warmth that was notably absent between Mr. Mubarak and President George W. Bush, who annoyed the Egyptian leader by pushing him to relax his authoritarian rule.

In striking contrast to his chilly relationship with President Bush, Mr. Mubarak said President Obama had “removed all doubts about the United States and the Muslim world” with his “great, fantastic” speech in Cairo in June.

It would appear that among many of the “doubts” Obama had removed “about the United States and the Muslim world,” we must include any effort to hold tyrants like Mubarak to account, especially since we are still paying him and Egypt off for the Camp David Accords 30 years after their signing to the tune of a few billion dollars a year. We’re talking about a potentate who imprisoned his only rival during the last election and locks up democracy activists and those who question the viability of a Mubarak dynasty. Whatever one thinks of George W. Bush, it’s surely to his credit that he didn’t show Mubarak a good time. And it’s surely to Obama’s discredit that he believes he is reaching out to Muslims by placing his hand in the hand of one of their chief subjugators. As Elliott Abrams (yes, my brother-in-law Elliott Abrams) writes on the Weekly Standard‘s website:

While the visit to Washington must have been immensely satisfying for Mubarak, it did not advance American interests in Egypt. As Michele Dunne of the Carnegie Endowment wrote in the Washington Post, “something is missing from the meeting. That would be the interests of Egypt’s 83 million citizens, whose collective hopes and aspirations have disappeared from U.S. considerations since President George W. Bush’s freedom agenda flamed out years ago.” Mubarak is 81 years old, so placing all our bets on him—even for so short a time as the three years left to President Obama—is unwise. . . . American officials who want to rely on a permanent military government in Egypt will eventually fail (and let’s be clear: the Egyptian regime is led by a retired general, Hosni Mubarak, has never held a free election, jails its opponents, and is kept in power by the secret police and the army).

Mubarak has ruled for 28 years and done next to nothing to prepare Egypt for democracy; indeed this very week his government once again refused to allow the formation of a moderate Islamic party that would draw votes away from the Muslim Brotherhood. He has in fact created a dangerous two-party system: the ruling “National Democratic Party” and the Muslim Brotherhood are the only organized political entities. Moderates have been crushed, imprisoned, exiled, and forbidden to organize. This is sowing the wind and when Mubarak is gone the reaping may begin.


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