Say what you will about John McCain, he has an unerring instinct in a foreign crisis. He was right about the surge in Iraq. He was right about the Russian invasion of Georgia. And now he’s right about Egypt. He has come to the conclusion that, as his Twitter feed put it, “Regrettably the time has come 4 Pres. Mubarak 2 step down& relinquish power. It’s in the best interest of Egypt, its people &its military.” Leaving aside the inelegance of announcing an important position via such a limited medium (one that I admittedly use myself), this is a principled stand. More important, it’s the right stand.
McCain understands what Obama apparently does not, or at least what Obama is not willing to come out and say publicly: that having Mubarak try to cling to office by violence serves no one — not the people of Egypt, not the United States, and ultimately not even Mubarak himself. Mubarak’s historical reputation will only grow worse if he is seen as inflicting bloodshed on his people to preserve his rule. Further fighting of the kind we have seen today, with pro-regime thugs attacking peaceful protesters, also has the potential to fracture the army and to provide an opening to the Muslim Brotherhood. At this point, it is imperative for Mubarak to leave quickly, opening the way for a transition government that with military support could prepare the way for free and fair elections. The U.S. does not have the option of voting “present” in this crisis. What we say and do matters. It’s time for Obama to follow McCain’s lead — not for the first time.