Oliver Willis

I Repeat: Cowboy Diplomacy Is Over

People’s opinions on Egyptian-American relations seem to be all over the place. On one hand, conservatives are in spots complaining that Obama is not doing enough (as if he takes vacations like Bush) or that he’s part of a secret plot to support the Muslim brotherhood (no, really). Liberals, and some on the right, have also complained that the U.S. hasn’t given full-throated support to those rebelling against the Egyptian government.

We can’t do this – for numerous reasons. Most importantly, the best way to give an autocratic ruler in the middle east carte blanche to put down an uprising would be to give it the full support of the U.S. government. In a region that is reflexively anti-American (sometimes with very good reason) the best way to demonize a movement would be to give it American backing.

Secondly, this isn’t a simplistic story of good guys and bad guys. You may get this impression from the news media coverage, whose resources in foreign coverage are so barebones that most of the establishment press has no idea why there would be a rebellion in Egypt in the first place. Is Mubarak bad news to his people? Yes. But at the same time his government has been a strategic ally of the United States, while many of those protesting the government may have their hearts in the right place – they could just as easily turn out to install an Islamic Republic like we’ve seen in Iran.

The day has passed when the American president stands in front of the nation and gives a simplistic construct for explaining a complex foreign policy conundrum. We’re back to the tradition – in both parties – of not being kneejerk stupid on this most important of issues.

As a failed president once said: It’s hard work.