Although there were many issues in the speech worth addressing, I’m short on time so I’ll only look at two of them: Obama’s call to Assad and his aid to Egypt.
Despite critics who wanted Obama to call for Assad’s departure, I thought the President made the right decision. No one actually expects Assad to lead democratic reform, because doing so would almost certainly result in his minority ruling party being ousted in a free and fair election. So Obama’s ultimatum was much more weighted to “get out the way.”By not making the call explicitly, Obama left himself with at least a bit of political leverage. However, my guess is that it is only a matter of time before Obama is forced to play all of his diplomatic cards, and then some. The President better be ready to fully back up his words, because Assad won’t go down without a fight.
About the only thing that Rep. Ros-Lehtinen and I agree on is that Obama should have held off on economic aid to Egypt until the new government is formed, although for very different reasons. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen says that we shouldn’t give aid to Egypt unless it “will not include the Muslim Brotherhood, and will be democratic, [and] pro-American.” The ignorance in that statement is astounding.
First, it goes against everything the President said about self-determination. If the Egyptian people want the Muslim Brotherhood to be part of the new government, they have that right. Yes, the group is Islamic, but is squarely against non-violence and Al Qaeda actually despises for that very reason. Furthermore, if you look Article 5 in the Egyptian constitution, it states that political parties cannot be based on religion. In reality that probably won’t end up being the case, but just look at the religious lobbies in the US. It is hard to argue that our politics are not [heavily] influenced by religion.
The reason that we should hold off on aid is that although the military council running Egypt is necessary, it is not a legitimate or permanent government. The military council has already shown a few signs of the old regime, and the last thing we need to do is give them one more reason, or tool, to hang on to power. Aid should be used as an incentive to conduct free and fair elections.