American President Barack Obama has divorced the Middle East, even if it he did not declare it or present the world with the divorce certificate.
US Administration officials are treating the protests in Egypt as a constitutive event in the Mideast and comparing them to the revolution in Europe in the wake of the Berlin Wall’s collapse. However, Obama, loyal to his worldview that the US should not build or ruin foreign regimes, presented the world with a hesitant response over the weekend: He did not support Mubarak, but also did not go all the way to the other end of the spectrum and called for general elections or the replacement of the Egyptian regime.
Obama could have led a revolution in the Middle East: As the leader of the Free World, he could have facilitated peace agreements, if not by coercion then at least by exerting massive pressure. Yet precisely when he chose to take one step back, America’s most important ally in the Middle East, Egypt, collapsed right before his eyes.
Obama’s response to the protests in Egypt and to the Mubarak speech proved that at that junction the White House preferred not to take a decisive, unequivocal stance. While Obama said in his speech Friday that he supports the will of the Egyptian people, he did not show sweeping endorsement of the protestors. On the other hand, he did not support Mubarak either.
For two years now, far away from the glare of the cameras, Obama has been confronting Mubarak and demanding that he improve the state of human rights in Egypt. According to the US president’s worldview, there is no room for supporting tyrants, and he therefore did not utter even one positive word that would stabilize Mubarak’s regime vis-à-vis the protestors. Obama did this despite the reasonable concerns that should Mubarak fall, the Muslim Brothers will replace him.
Over the weekend, Obama did everything in his power not to be portrayed as a leader who supports a dictator. However, the American hesitation stems from another fact of immense importance: Obama has decided to turn his back on the Middle East.
Despite all his nice words, the US president did not dare execute his plan for securing peace in the region. This would not have necessarily curbed the protests in Egypt, but it may have given them a different meaning. Yet Obama had lost this opportunity. America is barely playing on that court. In fact, it barely exists there.
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