Photo: 3arabaway, CC
Walter Mead, former Kissinger Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and one of the smartest bloggers on the web, reviews the bidding in Egypt and the possible consequences for the Obama Administration. Mead asks: “what do you do when revolution breaks out in an allied country?” There really aren’t any good policy options. Generally speaking, the President gets blamed if things go wrong. US history provides plenty of examples of that, most recently when Iran fell and President Carter was left to deal with the consequences.
The larger and more important challenge, however is bridging the expectations gap (between the promise of revolution and the reality that follows) of the Egyptian people.
The biggest problem facing both American policymakers and the Egyptian people was summed up very elegantly by former US ambassador Edward Walker in an interview with Bloomberg:
The immediate problem in Egypt is that protesters have no one who can deliver what they want — jobs, lower prices and a better life.
“It’s very difficult to see how democracy will work to answer the questions the demonstrators have,” Walker said. “It doesn’t create jobs, it doesn’t lower the price of food” or eliminate the gap between rich and poor.
Egypt has serious problems that have no obvious or simple solutions. That is the fundamental issue that confronts Egyptian authorities and protesters alike. President Obama will struggle to find an appropriate response to the crisis that balances America’s strategic priorities with the new realities in Egyptian politics. It is clear that the reform movement will not go away anytime soon, but can reformists solve the problems of unemployment, class divisions, or economic disparity? We must all remember that public anger does not automatically create solutions to serious cultural and economic problems and the chaos and upheaval that inevitably attend even benign and popular revolutions may have severe economic repercussions.
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