Obama Faces Stark Choices On Mubarak

The original headline of the NY Times article was “US faces stark choice as Mubarak clings to office,” but, perhaps the Fish Wrap realized that the rest of pretty much know what is going on, and have made our choices, and that so far, Obama has voted “present”

President Hosni Mubarak’s refusal to step down on Thursday, after a day of rumors galvanized the crowds in Cairo, confronts the Obama administration with a stark choice: break decisively with Mr. Mubarak or stick to its call for an “orderly transition” that may no longer be tenable.

Will you go with door 1 or door 2, Mr. Obama? “Yes.”

On a day of dashed hopes in Egypt, the administration’s attempts to balance the democratic aspirations of the protesters against a fear of contributing to broader instability in the Middle East collided head-on with Mr. Mubarak’s defiant refusal to relinquish his office.

Obviously, the situation is a difficult one. Mubarak leaving now could leave the military in charge, with another strongman being put in charge, just like it’s been for the last 30 years, which could lead to violence in the streets. Mubarak leaving now could lead to Islamic hardcores being a part of the government, and, worst case, another Iranian style government. It could also lead to an actual democratic government, one which is a stabilizing force in the region, which upholds its peace agreements with Israel.

However, the messaging from the Obama administration has been muddled, mixed, tepid, and typically too late. Many of the Egyptian protesters, both in Egypt and here in the USA, have felt that the Obama admin. has betrayed them. Hey, folks, at least Obama has said …… something. Think how those in Iran felt. Joe Biden was correct about “on the job training.” Perhaps when the next big revolt happens, Team Obama will be ready.

I wouldn’t count on it, though. Fortunately, they have Democracy Arsenal to advise them on what to do

1) Stick to core principles: The White House needs to strongly reiterate its three key points of “no violence,” “respect for human rights,” and “credible transition to democracy”

2) Seek new leverage: The White House needs to explore new routes to sway the behavior of Mubarak and his cohorts. The stale arguments about levels of whether to explicitly call for Mubarak’s resignation or whether to suspend military aid are clearly not enough to sway him. The White House should consider fresh ways to show common cause with the protestors.

3) Stay on the offense: President Obama has been strong in his public statements. Now is not the time to let up, just because Hosni Mubarak said so. Now is the time to keep the pressure on and seek more concrete and viable changes in Mubarak’s decisions.

That should do it! Unfortunately, a few talking points and some tepid photo ops will not solve anything. But, hey, that’s Liberal World, and how we lost Iran.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.

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