Obama vs. Mubarak - no contest

Rick Moran
Egypt's parliamentary elections are today and President Mubarak has made it clear that he wants no interference from anyone while he rigs the ballot for a favorable outcome.

In the last few weeks, his regime has rounded up thousands of activists, silenced numerous critics on television, closed down TV and radio stations who oppose him, and restrictions have been placed on texting.

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama and his State Department have been publicly quiet about these abuses while barely mentioning human rights in private. A Washington Post editorial relates how this affects our foreign policy in the Middle East:

The president and his secretary of state have brought up democracy and human rights in private conversations with Egyptian leaders but shied away from them in public. They have failed to make any connection between Mr. Mubarak's domestic repression and the more than $1 billion in U.S. aid Egypt receives every year, much of it directed to the military. They have not supported efforts in Congress to pass legislation or even nonbinding resolutions linking bilateral relations to political reform.

This week would be an ideal moment to begin changing those policies. Mr. Obama should let Egyptians - and Arabs around the Middle East - know what he thinks about an election in which peaceful opponents are banned or beaten, votes are stolen and observers excluded.
He should end the State Department's practice of allowing Egypt to exercise a veto over which civil society groups receive U.S. aid, and he should encourage Congress to link military funds to human rights, as it has for several democracies that are U.S. allies. Most of all, Mr. Obama should make it clear that he will not be dismissed or pushed around by Arab strongmen. If Mr. Mubarak gets away with it, others will be quick to follow his example.

This is not a case like Pakistan where strategic considerations give that government a whip hand over US policy. A little jawboning about human rights in Egypt from Obama wouldn't hurt a bit and would send a message to other Arab states about our support for democracy.

Instead, being "pushed around" by tinpot dictators like Mubarak seems to be our fate as long as Obama insists  on treating Arab states with kid gloves.




Egypt's parliamentary elections are today and President Mubarak has made it clear that he wants no interference from anyone while he rigs the ballot for a favorable outcome.

In the last few weeks, his regime has rounded up thousands of activists, silenced numerous critics on television, closed down TV and radio stations who oppose him, and restrictions have been placed on texting.

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama and his State Department have been publicly quiet about these abuses while barely mentioning human rights in private. A Washington Post editorial relates how this affects our foreign policy in the Middle East:

The president and his secretary of state have brought up democracy and human rights in private conversations with Egyptian leaders but shied away from them in public. They have failed to make any connection between Mr. Mubarak's domestic repression and the more than $1 billion in U.S. aid Egypt receives every year, much of it directed to the military. They have not supported efforts in Congress to pass legislation or even nonbinding resolutions linking bilateral relations to political reform.

This week would be an ideal moment to begin changing those policies. Mr. Obama should let Egyptians - and Arabs around the Middle East - know what he thinks about an election in which peaceful opponents are banned or beaten, votes are stolen and observers excluded.

He should end the State Department's practice of allowing Egypt to exercise a veto over which civil society groups receive U.S. aid, and he should encourage Congress to link military funds to human rights, as it has for several democracies that are U.S. allies. Most of all, Mr. Obama should make it clear that he will not be dismissed or pushed around by Arab strongmen. If Mr. Mubarak gets away with it, others will be quick to follow his example.

This is not a case like Pakistan where strategic considerations give that government a whip hand over US policy. A little jawboning about human rights in Egypt from Obama wouldn't hurt a bit and would send a message to other Arab states about our support for democracy.

Instead, being "pushed around" by tinpot dictators like Mubarak seems to be our fate as long as Obama insists  on treating Arab states with kid gloves.