If the news reports I've seen are correct, the United States is now getting behind a political transition that will be orchestrated by the new Vice President Omar Suleiman, a close Mubarak associate. It's not even clear if the United States now thinks Mubarak has to step down. Instead, Secretary of State Clinton seems to be suggesting that we need to help VP Suleiman "defuse" the street demonstrations, which would remove most of the impetus for change.
And if subsequent reforms are mostly cosmetic and individuals or groups associated with the old regime end up retaining power in a subsequent election, they are likely to have no more legitimacy than Mubarak has right now. And the U.S. image in the region, which is bad enough already, will take another big hit.
Read the entire article here.
Walt refers to this article by Asli Bâli and Aziz Rana, both contributors to Foreign Policy in Focus. The two professors conlude their article with these words:
Supporting the demands of the Egyptian people, rather than an "orderly transition" managed by a fatally compromised Egyptian regime, will require Washington to enter into unchartered territory in its Middle East policies. The United States will have to redefine stability in terms that embrace local concerns with democratic legitimacy. As a consequence, Western leaders must recognize that the alternatives presented by events in Egypt are not solely a region of adversaries or clients. There is also the possibility of a region with its own internal priorities and resources, one that can be engaged with rather than dictated to.
The following weeks will provide a profound opportunity to reset the U.S. and European approach. Perhaps the high rhetoric of Barack Obama's Cairo speech may yet be redeemed. If not, events in Cairo and beyond will represent the death knell of the president's promise of a better posture for the United States in the Middle East and the wider Muslim world. It will make clear that for all the talk of freedom and moderation, the United States seems willing to jettison both at the slightest turn of events.
Asli Bâli is acting professor of law at UCLA School of Law and an editor at Middle East Report and Aziz Rana is assistant professor of law at Cornell Law and author of The Two Faces of American Freedom out now from Harvard University Press. They are contributors to Foreign Policy In Focus.
The article by the professors was written a few days ago. Obama has unfortunately chosen the path indicated in the last two sentences of the article.