Monday, February 07, 2011

Obama or Mubarak? My Bet is on Mubarak

In the current contest of wills between Hosni Mubarak and Barack Obama, who will come out on top?

Leaving aside the almost daily uncertainty over the Obama administration's position, which seems to cycle more frequently and extremely than the tides at Fundy, my money is on Mr. Mubarak. As the entire world's people, especially in the Middle East but mysteriously not including Americans, now knows, Mr. Obama is at his best verbally belittling our friends and bolstering our enemies. For better or worse, however, Mr. Obama's comfort with tools, whether foreign or domestic, extends only to the words he speaks.

On the other hand, Mr. Mubarak has an array of very tangible tools with which to affect his own destiny and a will proven fully capable of their exercise. He has armed forces, political favors, economic largess, the domestic press and a plethora of embedded special interests to use as needed and during his 30 years in office, some tumultuous, he's displayed a willingness to use them all.

Given the combination of America's purse and its bumbling in the area, it's reasonable to think that U. S. capabilities and leadership have been a special focus for Egyptian intelligence and the Mubarak administration. After all, the U. S. has sent Egypt's government more than $50 billion to keep Mr. Mubarak's in office for three decades. He's going to know everything there is to know that's important about the people making the decisions so critical to him.

Mr. Obama, on the other hand, has made no significant effort to understand Egypt, its people, the demonstrators, the opposition or Mr. Mubarak. The administration has stumbled and bumbled through the first week of demonstrations, taking nearly every conceivable position in rapid sequence. It has spoken in private and public, in whispers and shouts, through far too many contradictory voices.

Mr. Obama has few tools in hand, none of them determinative. He has retreated to his tendency to vote "present" at each juncture rather than engage and remain so.

Mr. Obama is our weakest President in more than a century. Mr. Mubarak knows this and is operating from a position of strength.

What's amazing is that Mr. Mubarak's position is far better for Egyptians than the one envisioned in the White House.

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