Egypt’s deposed president, Hosni Mubarak, went into a full coma on Saturday night at his residence in the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh, an Egyptian newspaper reported on Monday, quoting well-informed sources.
Mubarak and his family moved to Sharm al-Sheikh on Thursday night following his final speech, in which he handed over executive authority to former Vice-President Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s al-Masry al-Youm reported.
The same sources said that Mubarak was currently receiving medical treatment but that no decision had yet been made on whether to transfer the 82-year-old former head-of-state to a hospital.
Rumors had circulated earlier that Mubarak had fainted twice while recording his final speech, which was broadcast on state television on Thursday evening.
Mubarak is 82 years old, and the process of being deposed by the military that he led would have been stressful enough for a man half his age. For an octogenarian rumored to have been in failing health anyway, the past two weeks could easily have killed him.
It seems rather convenient, though, that Mubarak fell into a coma immediately after stepping down. It also seems a little strange that these reports have his family and staff wondering whether he should be hospitalized as a result. Who wouldn’t hospitalize an 82-year-old man who suddenly wouldn’t awaken? Would that not be the first action taken under those circumstances?
Mubarak’s isn’t the only coma affecting Egypt, either, according to Niall Ferguson. The new Newsweek/Daily Beast columnist blasts the Obama administration for its feckless response to the crisis in Cairo, arguing that Barack Obama accomplished the nearly impossible task of alienating everyone:
In each case, the president faced stark alternatives. He could try to catch the wave, Bismarck style, by lending his support to the youthful revolutionaries and trying to ride it in a direction advantageous to American interests. Or he could do nothing and let the forces of reaction prevail. In the case of Iran, he did nothing, and the thugs of the Islamic Republic ruthlessly crushed the demonstrations. This time around, in Egypt, it was worse. He did both—some days exhorting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to leave, other days drawing back and recommending an “orderly transition.”
The result has been a foreign-policy debacle. The president has alienated everybody: not only Mubarak’s cronies in the military, but also the youthful crowds in the streets of Cairo. Whoever ultimately wins, Obama loses. And the alienation doesn’t end there. America’s two closest friends in the region—Israel and Saudi Arabia—are both disgusted. The Saudis, who dread all manifestations of revolution, are appalled at Washington’s failure to resolutely prop up Mubarak. The Israelis, meanwhile, are dismayed by the administration’s apparent cluelessness. …
This failure was not the result of bad luck. It was the predictable consequence of the Obama administration’s lack of any kind of coherent grand strategy, a deficit about which more than a few veterans of U.S. foreign-policymaking have long worried.
Ferguson tries to argue that Obama is less to blame than his staff, which certainly shares the blame for the incoherent response and the apparent utter surprise of the White House. But Obama runs that staff, and chose it personally. He put Hillary Clinton in as Secretary of State despite having no real foreign-policy experience, and chose James Clapper as his DNI. Clapper distinguished himself in this crisis by apparently failing to realize that the “Muslim” in “Muslim Brotherhood” denoted a particularly religious (and extremist) ideology at work. Obama also chose Frank Wisner to deliver a message to Mubarak without apparently accounting for the fact that Wisner’s firm represents the Egyptian government and its military, when the US ambassador, Margaret Scobey, was already on the ground for the past three years.
Ferguson eventually gets to the heart of the matter in his conclusion:
Tragically, no one knows where Barack Obama’s map of the Middle East is. At best, it is in the heartland states of America, where the fate of his presidency will be decided next year, just as Jimmy Carter’s was back in 1980.
At worst, he has no map at all.
His map of the world, it seems, begins and ends in Russia. Obama’s only real enthusiasm in foreign policy has come from nuclear talks with Russia, starting with the embarrassing “reset button” in 2009 and concluding with START. It’s not to say that nuclear disarmament and verification aren’t important issues, but they are hardly the threat to American national security that they were when Obama went to college. Nothing else outside of this forum seems to interest Obama at all.
It’s not that Obama has no “map” of the Middle East. It’s that foreign policy isn’t on his map, which is why the phrase “smart power” has morphed into irony.