The Washington Post Has You Covered With All The Options

by zunguzungu

The Washington Post had a bunch of fairly tiresome “experts” give little canned “How should the U.S. respond to the protests in the Middle East?” recommendations and they were, well, tiresome. I wanted to sort of get a sense of what the Washington Post — like the paper of record! Only with a much worse baseball team! — thought the appropriate ideological spectrum should be, and the experience made me feel really grossed out. Most were terrible and betrayed a horrific mis-sense of right and wrong, while some were only uninspiring and vague. The fact that I agree most with the lady from the American Enterprise Institute must mean something, but I can’t see what it is because I’ve been gouging out my eyes and chewing on glass ever since I realized it.

Anyway, here’s my rundown; not sure if I’ve learned anything from the experience, but having done it, I might as well foist it on you, loyal blog reader:

1. Steven Heydemann, whose bio notes that “His interests include authoritarian governance”:

…Surprises are possible, but it is most likely that the Egyptian and Yemeni regimes will survive these “days of rage.” After the truncheons have done their work, what are U.S. options? The administration has an extraordinary opportunity to reinvigorate support for democratic reform in the Arab world.

In short: After we have stood idly by as these dictators have crushed the spirit and bodies of their people, the United States should lightly step in and work to “reinvigorate” democracy.

2. Stephen J. Hadley, Bush’s former National Security advisor:

If Egypt descends into chaos, either a takeover by the army or a putsch by the Muslim Brotherhood is the most likely option. Neither will be a triumph of democracy nor give the Egyptian people the freedom they seek and deserve. If the Egyptian government survives the current violence, [Mubarak] will face a choice. Will he seek to transfer power to another authoritarian strongman or midwife a transition to democracy? Will he encourage the civil society and non-Islamist political parties that could give the Egyptian people real choices for a democratic future? Let us hope and urge President Mubarak to make this latter choice.

In short: Overturning Mubarak’s rule equals “descending in chaos” and will result in military or Islamist rule. The only shot at democracy that Egypt has is if Mubarak stays in power and then, out of his great munificence, he decides to grant it to them.

3. Aaron David Miller, advisor to six secretaries of state:

You can’t control history. The Middle East is littered with the remains of great powers that thought they could impose their will on small tribes [and] Don’t abandon your friends. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak may be an authoritarian, but since 1981 your predecessors and you have deemed him vital to American interests.

In short: Arabs is unpredictable and chaotic, so the best thing is really to just make friends with dictators.

4. Danelle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute:

The president himself needs to stand up and unequivocally make clear America’s position: in favor of the people over their oppressors. Suspend aid to the Egyptian government.

In short: Um, I agree with someone from AEI? Um, what? God, that’s depressing.

5. Hussein Agha and Robert Malley, I don’t know why these two had to co-write their piece:

To continue supporting unpopular rulers would further alienate those who are most likely to assume power in the future. Openly siding with the street would strain ties with regimes that might survive the unrest and whose help the United States still needs. Washington can cut its losses and begin turning the page in its relations with the Arab world…For now, it means assuming a low profile and resisting the temptation to become part of the story.

In short: Wait to see who wins is really the best way for the US to benefit from this situation.

6. Marina Ottaway, Director of the Middle East program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:

Washington’s reaction to the growing unrest will have almost no impact on what happens in the Arab world, which will be determined by domestic factors – the protesters’ determination, the governments’ response, the willingness of police and army units to use force against demonstrators…But what the United States says affects its standing in the region…The United States’ long-term interests would be best served by supporting unequivocally the messy process of democratic change.

In short: Because the USA can’t influence events in any way, we only really need to worry about what will ingratiate us most to people we can benefit from.

7. Andrew Albertson, Executive director of the Project on Middle East Democracy from 2007 to 2010

The Obama administration has begun taking many of the right steps already. Aware of the dangers for U.S. interests…it has repeatedly raised with Arab leaders the need for comprehensive reforms. In the wake of Friday’s events in Egypt, the administration needs to double down on its call for political reforms across the region. In Tunisia and Egypt, the administration should seize the opportunity to support full-scale transitions to democracy. New subsidies or cabinet shuffles aren’t enough….The United States should quickly press allies such as Yemen, Jordan and Morocco to drop constraints on political participation, convene broad political dialogues, and place the highest premium on transparent and effective governance.

In short: We need to seriously encourage embattled despots to use more buzzwords and clichés.

8. Ed Husain, founder of Quilliam, British counter-Islamic extremism think tank:

I’ve lived and traveled across the Arab world and witnessed the vast popularity of American clothes, Hollywood, McDonald’s, baseball caps, cars and books. Visa applications overload U.S. embassies. Yet double standards in U.S. foreign policy anger young Arabs and fuel radicalization and terrorism. By proudly supporting the freedom chanters today, America has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to help undermine terrorists and tyrants and support the people…Can America make these people proud and empower them against Muslim extremists by changing the American story and making us all safer? Yes, it can. It must.

In short: I mean, okay, yeah, double standards, support the protesters, that’s fine. Anything else there other than America is whisky and sexy, though?