There is no easy way for the leader of the United States of America to address the current situation in Egypt, due to the strategic importance of that country to our goals in the region.
That said, the President blew a huge opportunity to placate his domestic opposition while being forthright with the American people about our broad foreign policy goals. By doing so, he would send a clear signal to Central Intelligence, the Department of Defense, the National Security Administration, the State Department, the National Security Council and others that Barack Obama is in charge of our international diplomacy, and that he has a clear vision for advancing America’s global leadership in the 21st Century.
Better luck next crisis.
Here’s what I would’ve written for the president:
My fellow Americans and global citizens,
The events unfolding in Egypt in the last few days have laid bare an essential fact too powerful for any government on the planet to ignore: the will of a people must be recognized. The sustained protests in Egypt continue to reverberate around the world as a powerful reminder that those who govern do so by the consent of the governed.
This essential truth is one that Americans hold close, as it is the cornerstone of our democracy. And regardless of political or religious contrasts, the people in Egypt share a common yearning with our Founders: a longing to be free and to seek prosperity under a just government.
At this moment in its history, Egypt must acknowledge this yearning amongst its citizens. To do otherwise is to ignore a fundamental value shared by people in every corner of the globe. Those who would govern must recognize peaceful protest as an essential right, and understand that violence cannot quash the basic human desire for freedom and dignity.
Let me be clear: I am in no way suggesting that Mubarak must, or even should, resign from the presidency of Egypt. That is not my, nor America’s decision to make: it is for the people of Egypt and Mubarak himself to decide. I believe that Egypt will make its way through the current turmoil and towards a stable, fruitful future. America will stand by its peaceful efforts to do so.
I must also say clearly to the American people that Egypt is, and has been, an important strategic ally to our country. To ignore this would be to ignore the tremendous challenges the United States faces in helping to realize a more peaceful Middle East, and a more secure world.
We must not, however, condone behavior that in any way betrays our fundamental respect for human rights. America can, and should, lead by example and hold those nations with whom our other interests may align to the same standards as we hold ourselves. We cannot coerce the world’s governments to comply with our ideals, we can only reflect them in our words and actions. And today, my words are not only directed towards Egypt, but to all of those in power: For America to be a true ally, you must be committed to the well-being of your people and recognize their intrinsic need for security and dignity.
I believe Egypt can and will rise to the occasion.