When All Your Friends Are Authoritarians: Obama “Ratchets Up” Pressure On Egypt

BY Glen Tschirgi
10 years, 8 months ago

Poor Obama.  This just isn’t what he signed up for when he decided that the World needed him to heal the planet and slow the rise of the oceans.

All those pesky, little people, yearning to be free.  They just keep fouling up his Plan to make the World love him, er,  America, again.

Every time Obama finds a nice authoritarian that he can work with, those darn democracy types throw the guy out or at least threaten to do so.  In Tunisia, for example, the ambassador sent by Obama as the point man for U.S. policy there, had many fond things to say in 2010 about the now-defunct authoritarian regime.

Now comes this Reuters article by Matt Spetalnick and David Alexander, “Obama Ratchets Up Pressure On Egypt,” to further highlight what a tough time Obama is having with the protests against his buddy Mubarak in Egypt.

President Barack Obama called on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Thursday to make “absolutely critical” political reforms, ratcheting up pressure on a key U.S. ally in the face of street protests seeking his ouster.

Weighing in for the first time after three days of Egyptian unrest, Obama was careful to avoid any sign of abandoning Mubarak but made clear his sympathy for demonstrators he said were expressing “pent-up frustrations” after decades of authoritarian rule.

Yes, one can imagine that after “decades” of authoritarian rule the people might have some “pent up frustrations.”  What kind of tongue-lashing did Mubarak get, exactly?

“I’ve always said to him that making sure that they are moving forward on reform — political reform, economic reform — is absolutely critical for the long-term well-being of Egypt,” Obama said as he answered questions from an online audience on the YouTube website.

Whoa!   That’s mighty strong talk, Mr. President.  Too bad Obama was not around in the 1970’s.   He might have said the same thing to Brezhnev after decades of authoritarian rule in Eastern Europe and saved the U.S.S.R. the trouble of collapsing on itself.  Talk about healing the planet!

Be careful, Hosni.  Barack might not send you a birthday present this year.   (Sadly, you will not be getting that bust of Winston Churchill that he was dying to unload).

How has that steady pressure by Obama worked out? According to the Reuter’s article:

Mubarak has rarely heeded U.S. pressure before over his government’s behavior, and it remains to be seen whether tougher language will translate into anything of substance.

Not fair, that.  Obama is trying to give Mubarak some tough love, but sometimes you just have to let a strong ruler figure things out on their own.

Then there is this:

U.S. influence at the street level in Egypt and the rest of the Arab world is also minimal. Anti-American sentiment remains high despite Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world and his efforts to ease hostility toward Washington generated by his predecessor George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

The administration is also hemmed in by its desire to avoid the impression of further U.S. interference in the region. Bush’s “freedom agenda” was widely reviled in the Arab world.


That pesky “Arab street” again.   How could they have resisted the prophetic magic of the Great Orator’s 2009 speech?  Hasn’t Obama won them over with his teleprompter turn-of-phrase and smooth delivery?  According to the Reuters article, not so much.

Next we read that the “administration is hemmed in” because it cannot afford to be seen as interfering in authoritarian’s business.   Yes, that would be bad.   Afterall, the article notes, everyone knows that “Bush’s ‘freedom agenda’ was widely reviled in the Arab world.”

Funny thing about that, though.  Widely reviled?  Perhaps Spetalnick and Alexander suffer from a common ailment of the Left: revisionist memory syndrome.  Despite the undeniable unpopularity of the 2003 Iraq invasion, those pesky Arab people were surprisingly supportive of that Bush “freedom agenda.”

Strange, the average Arab seemed to strongly support democracy even while disapproving of U.S. “interference” in the region.   That darn Bush again!  He was just not sophisticated enough to realize that Arabs won’t support freedom if you interfere.

An excellent piece by Larry Diamond of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution is well worth a read in this regard.   Mr. Diamond has the audacity to suggest that more interference, not less, is the way to inspire greater democracy in the authoritarian Middle East.

Sadly, it seems that Obama, like much of the Left, is far more comfortable with authoritarianism than with the messy apparatus of democracy.  Time and again, the Obama Administration has failed to strongly condemn even the most brutal authoritarian regimes like Iran.

Why?  Ultimately it may be due to a basic worldview where it is far easier, in Obama’s mind, to effect change through one, strong, all-powerful ruler, than through persuasion of large groups of independent-minded people.  This is Obama’s approach, in general, to domestic policy as well.  He strongly favors Big Government solutions and is not afraid to act unilaterally (such as the FCC net-neutrality and EPA carbon emission rules) where Congress refuses to go along quietly.   It has been widely noted that Obama has a disturbing tendency to make himself the focus of everything he says or does.

In short, Obama treats authoritarians like Mubarak and Ahmadinejad with kid gloves because he has a natural affinity with them coupled with a deep fear of popular sentiment (see Tea Party movement, Obamacare opposition, reduction of Federal spending).

Not only does this not bode well for the cause of freedom in the Middle East, but we can expect more authoritarian reactions from Obama here in the U.S. as the Republican-controlled House increasingly resists his Big Government agenda.


  1. On January 28, 2011 at 12:09 pm, Burk said:

    Hi, Cap’n: You seem to have lost mental coherence. Here’s an easy quiz- who was more authoritarian- Bush/Cheney or Obama/Biden? Who started two wars? Who started the terror alert system? Who got on extremely well with Saudi Arabia, inviting their king over to the summer house? Who outsourced his torture needs to a variety of authoritarian friends around the world?

    You are trying to say, in this blog, that white is black. Just because Obama has inherited a complex and highly distasteful foreign policy structure doesn’t mean that he isn’t working to make the world a better place instead of a worse place.

  2. On January 28, 2011 at 3:58 pm, Glen Tschirgi said:

    Thank you, Herschel. (Although I eagerly await comments of your own).

    Burk, it may be a bridge too far to cross with you, but what the heck. Let’s give it a try.

    First, please try to aim your darts at the correct target. Figuring out who the author of a post is usually helps. That would be me.

    Second, how does anyone begin to deal with comments that seem to originate in the Leftist meme that has been endlessly repeated in the media and Democrat politicians? “Bush-Hitler-Cheney-Enron-Torture-Stolen Election-False Intel-9/11 inside job etc…”

    Suffice it to say that virtually the entire Democrat Party in Congress in 2001-2003 voted in favor of BOTH of those wars (assuming you mean Afghanistan and Iraq). And, come to think of it, that so-called tyrant Bush-Cheney-Hitler went to Congress for authorization and made repeated trips to the U.N. to obtain some consensus. In the end, over 49 nations supported the invasion. We still have significant support for our action in Afghanistan.

    The terror alert system? Oh my, that is a tool of the devil now, isn’t it? Thank the Lord that Obumble has found a way to dismantle that horrific abuse of civil liberties. Now I can be free of the constant drone in the airport, “Today’s terror alert level is orange…” The same it’s been for the last 8 years or more.

    Yes, I will grant you that Bush’s cozying up with the Saudis is atrocious. But, tell me, Burk, who was the one bowing to the Saudis? If anything, Obama is far more craven than Bush ever was in his Saudi suck-uppery. To the tune of $300,000 by one account. But thanks, by the way, Burk, for pointing out Obama’s Saudi connection. Yet another one of his authoritarian pals. Oh, let’s not forget the Emperor of Japan either. Obama just can’t help himself around royalty (unless it’s the Queen of our former, best ally, Britain).

    And, of course, the TORTURE. Have to bring that up. Let’s see some links on that Herr Burk. But just throw it out there, even though no one has been convicted of anything in connection with the allegations. You can be sure that the Democrat-controlled House would have raked Bush across the coals if they could have come anywhere close to proving it.

    In the end, you are spouting the same, tired old Leftist cant. Rather than take on the charges that Obama has a curious penchant for authoritarian thugs, you trot out the equivalent of,”Well, Bush did it, too! It’s Bush’s fault! He left Obama a big mess and Obama’s doing the best that he can.” Waaaaaaaaah.

    As I said, a bridge too far.

  3. On January 28, 2011 at 1:00 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Oh goodness! Ha! I’ll have to weigh in later, but I’ll wait until Glen does so. This was his article.

  4. On January 28, 2011 at 5:07 pm, Burk said:

    Hi, All-

    It might be helpful to get our psychological terms straight…


    “There have been a number of other attempts to identify “left-wing authoritarians” in the United States and Canada. These would be people who submit to leftist authorities, are highly conventional to liberal viewpoints, and are aggressive to people who oppose left-wing ideology. These attempts have failed because measures of authoritarianism always correlate at least slightly with the right. There are certainly extremists across the political spectrum, but most psychologists now believe that authoritarianism is a predominantly right-wing phenomenon.”



    Which is all to say that you are displaying what seems to me to be a case of projection, labelling your opponents with your own traits. Obama has been a sheep-like compromiser, borrowing what spine he has from Nancy Pelosi. He is about as far as one can get from authoritarian.

  5. On January 28, 2011 at 10:06 pm, TS Alfabet said:

    As Glen said. Burk is a bridge too far. Way too far.

  6. On January 31, 2011 at 9:31 am, Dave said:

    Burk’s argument ignores the promise Obama made in his campaign: Change. Obama over-promised his ability to ‘kick ass’, ‘put his boot on the neck of [insert agenda item here]’, or ‘transform’.

    Now Burk defends Obama’s weakness with ‘inherited’ problems, rather than returning to the bluster of the campaign. Either Obama can deliver what he promised, or he can’t. Obama had no ‘inherited’ caveat in his pre-election commentary, and his inheritance is no more problematic than that prior. There was no Eden handed to Bush, and the heavy lifting Bush did is an indicator of the work that was deferred to him, not a dint of adventure.

    The problem is not political only, however. It is philosophical. By labeling this as ‘right/left’ or ‘political’, it minimizes the great philosophical differences underpinning Bush’s actions in the Middle East, and Obama’s.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Egypt,Obama Administration,Uncategorized and was published January 28th, 2011 by Glen Tschirgi.

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