[Cross-posted with From the Field]
“Some may argue that the events unfolding in the Middle East now are too unpredictable to warrant a wholesale shift in U.S. foreign policy, that transferring support from loyal satraps to an untested popular opposition may backfire if that opposition fails or is put down, that the U.S. needs reassurances of friendly allies (often at the expense of democracy). But America is not simply a bystander in all of this -- its actions and words will affect the outcome. They will signal to opposition and regimes alike how far each can expect to go in challenging -- or repressing -- the other. Opposition movements (and would-be opposition movements) secular or Islamist are not only waging a battle against authoritarian oppression -- but a battle against the ways in which the U.S. manifests its quest to secure its geo-strategic interest."
I know and respect the three authors (Amaney Jamal, Ellen Lust and Tarek Masoud) of this piece, but I do not fully share their prognostication. No doubt, the Obama administration like its predecessors has been complacent about the stability of Egypt, as a number of scholars and analysts have warned. Nonetheless, despite a few misstatements along the way, including by VP Biden and SecState Hillary Clinton, the Obama administration has handled the Egypt crisis sensibly, if not deftly. When the demonstrations began on January 25th, it was not clear how much momentum the protests would sustain. It is unreasonable to expect the U.S. to turn its policy on a dime, and the administration would have been derelict to do so.