Chris Matthews gets unusually harsh with his favorite political figure in this long segment from today’s Morning Joe, which is worth watching in its entirety. In fact, it puts me in the position of agreeing with Matthews on the issue, although he gets typically overwrought when he declares himself to be “ashamed as an American” to see Barack Obama and his administration sell out Hosni Mubarak, and to see what initially looked to be an intelligence failure to prepare for the uprising in Egypt. On Obama, Matthews blasts his “transactional quality,” but shouldn’t a national leader have the transactional rather than the emotional in mind when dealing in foreign affairs?
Quotes from Business Insider:
Wasn’t [Mubarak] our friend for 30 years? Are we denying that?…[After Sadat’s assassination] we thought things might come apart over there and he held everything together. He was strong….and now we say it’s time for the game…Well we should have prepared this 20, 30 years ago. Where is the State Dept.? Don’t we have hundreds of people sitting over there in Foggy Bottom with no other job except to know what’s going on in Egypt…what are they doing?
I watch Sec. Clinton today. I don’t get anything. I see anything more than two and two are four. I keep waiting for five. Show me you’ve done your jobs over there…I feel ashamed as an American at how we’re doing this…what have we done as leaders and as friends? All we’ve done is watch.
Our alliance with Sadat was entirely transactional, too. Let’s not still romanticize Sadat 30 years after his death; he was exactly the same kind of dictator as Mubarak. We supported Sadat because he cut a deal with Israel, and he cut a deal with Israel to (a) get American aid, and (b) avoid losing another war with Israel. Sadat gave his life for the peace agreement, but had he never been assassinated, we would have had to deal with his eventual death and transition of power. We also wanted to peel Egypt away from the Soviet Union at the time, too. The alliance and the aid made good geopolitical sense in the Cold War.
The better question is whether it made good sense after the Cold War. And the answer to that was still probably yes. Could and should we have pressed for more reforms? In retrospect, yes — and we could have also lost Mubarak and Egypt if we had. The truth is that we had only the influence of our cash, and that actually made Mubarak less popular and more prone to revolt, thanks to the diplomatic contact with Israel. And that’s still the extent of our “friendship” with Mubarak, which is why the transactional nature of the White House approach should come as no surprise. Isn’t it less transactional now to support democratic change than to try to prop up Mubarak in the face of this revolt?