Commentary Magazine


Egypt Figures Out Obama Doesn’t Care About Democracy

The Washington Post editors remind us that Hosni Mubarak has extended the country’s “emergency” laws (the “emergency” has been going on since 1981) for another two years. They explain:

In so doing, he flouted an emerging mass movement that has called for the law’s lifting, so that elections for parliament and president scheduled for the next 18 months can be genuinely democratic. He also violated the repeated pledges that he and his ruling party have made to end the emergency regime, dating back to 2005.

Last but not least, Mr. Mubarak took advantage of the policy of the Obama administration, which has chosen to soft-pedal the cause of democracy and human rights in Egypt and across the Middle East. Even as it has publicly demanded that Israel freeze Jewish settlements and that Mr. Karzai reform his government, the administration has gently stroked Egypt’s strongman, on the theory that the U.S.-Egyptian relationship needed mending after the Bush administration.

So the thugocracy of Mubarak will continue and the next election will be a sham, as have been the previous ones. Meanwhile, the administration declares the move “regrettable.” It doesn’t even feign being “deeply concerned” or “profoundly troubled.”

And what have we accomplished with this reticence? Egypt teamed up with Iran to hassle Israel about the Nonproliferation Treaty. Egypt’s repression of religious minorities and political critics has increased. So once again we have thrown human rights and democracy promotion under the bus, with nothing to show for it. The Middle East inches closer to a deadly nuclear-arms race and the Arab regimes become more and more repressive. This is what comes from Obama’s “smart” diplomacy.