Well, as we slide head first on the icy streets and sidewalks into another weekend, what’s the American public fretting about these days? Let’s see. A quick check early this a.m. of the most popular stories on USA Today: “Was Lindsay Lohan’s dress appropriate for court?” Grrrrrrrrrr.
Next up on the digital popularity list: “Donald Trump makes his case for presidency.” And you figured things couldn’t get worse after W left. Oops. I digress.
And third: “Mubarak transfers powers but remains in office.”
Wow. Surprised that story made it that high on the list. There must not be any snooker tournaments in Europe this weekend.
Maybe it’s just me, but it strikes me that what is happening in Egypt — throughout the Middle East in fact — is a big deal. And it would be encouraging to have some confidence that the Obama administration has some clue as to what is happening — if not really much ability, if any, to actually influence the outcome of events.
The back-story: Yesterday, many in Egypt, the USA and around the world expected that Mubarak was going to announce that he was going to pack his bags and head to a retirement community — pronto. Those expectations — which turned out to be wrong — were fueled in part by comments CIA Director Leon Panetta made to the House intelligence committee.
But wait. According to news reports, Panetta and his aides later walked back those remarks, saying he based them on news media reports. Dude. You’re Mr. CIA. Please tell us you know more about what is happening in Egypt than what we see on CNN and Fox News?
Anyway, Mubarak later in the day reprised, with a slight twist, the classic Vietnam War era chant by in effect going on TV saying, “Hell No, He Won’t Go.”
So it goes.
And as events continue to unfold in Egypt — with more demonstrations and protests on tap for today and with the military ultimately entering into the fray — consider these points from Charles Krauthammer in this WaPo article “From freedom agenda to freedom doctrine.” He opines about what the USA needs to do to ensure freedom — and the risks involved if this gets screwed up.
We need a foreign policy that not only supports freedom in the abstract but is guided by long-range practical principles to achieve it – a Freedom Doctrine composed of the following elements:
(1) The United States supports democracy throughout the Middle East. It will use its influence to help democrats everywhere throw off dictatorial rule.
(2) Democracy is more than just elections. It requires a free press, the rule of law, the freedom to organize, the establishment of independent political parties and the peaceful transfer of power. Therefore, the transition to democracy and initial elections must allow time for these institutions, most notably political parties, to establish themselves.
(3) The only U.S. interest in the internal governance of these new democracies is to help protect them against totalitarians, foreign and domestic. The recent Hezbollah coup in Lebanon and the Hamas dictatorship in Gaza dramatically demonstrate how anti-democratic elements that achieve power democratically can destroy the very democracy that empowered them.
(4) Therefore, just as during the Cold War the United States helped keep European communist parties out of power (to see them ultimately wither away), it will be U.S. policy to oppose the inclusion of totalitarian parties – the Muslim Brotherhood or, for that matter, communists – in any government, whether provisional or elected, in newly liberated Arab states.
We may not have the power to prevent this. So be it. The Brotherhood may today be so relatively strong in Egypt, for example, that a seat at the table is inevitable. But under no circumstances should a presidential spokesman say, as did Robert Gibbs, that the new order “has to include a whole host of important non-secular actors.” Why gratuitously legitimize Islamists? Instead, Americans should be urgently supporting secular democratic parties in Egypt and elsewhere with training, resources and diplomacy.
We are, unwillingly again, parties to a long twilight struggle, this time with Islamism – most notably Iran, its proxies and its potential allies, Sunni and Shiite. We should be clear-eyed about our preferred outcome – real democracies governed by committed democrats – and develop policies to see this through.
A freedom doctrine is a freedom agenda given direction by guiding principles. Truman did it. So can we.
OK. Admittedly, this crisis in the Middle East isn’t as important as Lindsay Lohan’s dress.
But shouldn’t the story at least trend above Donald Trump?