Friday, February 11, 2011

Money Does Not Always Buy Influence

The administration was seemingly caught off guard by President Mubarak’s recent remarks wherein he steadfastly refused to step down as President.  His unwillingness to bow to the wishes of the US government calls into question the extent to which the United States can influence events in the region.   
It had been widely reported that Mubarak would acquiesce to the will of the people and step aside.  Every news outlet, foreign and domestic, reported that Mubarak would leave.  The Egyptian military, long revered by the Egyptian people and the cornerstone of stability in the country, appeared before the protestors and announced “all of your demands will be met.”  Even the CIA expected Mubarak to step aside.  He had already agreed not to seek re-election in September and later promised that his son would not run as well.   But these concessions were not enough for the Egyptian people who want Mubarak out of office and out of the country.  When Mubarak vowed to stay until the September elections the mood in Liberation Square swiftly turned from one of joy and anticipation to anger and frustration.  The world was stunned and the rest of the world along with them.
The administration finds itself in a no win situation.  On the one hand they if they continue throw their support behind their long time ally they are turning their back on the core values which form the cornerstone of our democracy.  But if they try to force him out they risk incurring the wrath of every other autocracy in the region who is closely watching to see if America will stand by its allies when times get tough.
Naturally US politicians are doing what they do best, shouting from the rooftops.  Dick Cheney, for example questions how the Obama administration could turn its back on a long time trusted ally; even though that ally suppresses the very rights that we hold so dear.  Ron Paul, angry over Mubarak’s snub of US intervention, would like the US to stop its aide not only in the Middle East but to all foreign governments.  The old take my ball and go home diplomacy.
 Their protestations miss one very important point.  This is not about us.  This is about the people of Egypt and our opinions really don’t matter.   In fact we have very little influence over what goes on in the Middle East.  For all our military might and in spite of the billions upon billions of dollars that we have poured into the region, we have very little say in what goes on there.  Hosni Mubarak has made that perfectly clear.
Pouring billions of dollars into a region does not guarantee political influence.  Iran, Lebanon, Yemen, Tunisia and now Egypt should make that point crystal clear.   

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