Joe Biden says Mubarak isn't a dictator, questions legitimacy of protesters' demands

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78 Responses to “Joe Biden says Mubarak isn't a dictator, questions legitimacy of protesters' demands”

  1. Tatsuma says:

    If anyone reading these words honestly believes that Tel Aviv is not the de facto power in the Middle East, and that any US administrations policies towards the Middle East aren’t vetted through the Israeli’s first……I have a bridge for sale. Special today for you only. Low price.

    Israel is nervous as hell with the thought of the Muslim Brotherhood taking power in Cairo.

    Protests are spreading to Jordan as well.

    • urbanhick says:

      The u.s. gov’t is nervous as hell about it’s “special relationship” with israel coming under scrutiny and being exposed for the sham it is.

    • perchecreek says:

      If anyone reading these words honestly believes that Tel Aviv is not the de facto power in the Middle East [...]

      I disagree. The U.S. is the de facto power in the Middle East. The Carter Doctrine made explicit what had been tacit until then; that is, that oil shipment from the Middle East is a “vital interest” of the U.S., and that any interruption would be met with force. Nearly every U.S. diplomatic, military and covert action has revolved around oil, from the overthrow of Mosadeq, to the support of the House of Saud, to the elevation of Saddam Hussein to power. The U.S. has met any motion towards interruption by any state — ally or enemy — with force.

      Though the U.S. receives little Middle Eastern oil itself, interruption would be devastating because of where the U.S. lies in exploitation of its domestic oil resource, and because it has developed an overwhelmingly suburban economic structure.

      Control of the Suez and the strait of Hormuz, and of the largest reserves in Saudi Arabia and Iraq dictate U.S. policy, and nearly every despot in the region has received U.S. backing in pursuit of this interest, and since the declaration of the Carter Doctrine, policy.

  2. Mister44 says:

    LOL – so much for hope and change.

    Meet the new boss – Same as the old boss

  3. philolexian says:

    BoingBoing (and Cory),

    I am such a huge fan of the site, and agree with you politically on so many things; I am hardly a staunch defender of the Democratic Party in the US (though I consider it the least bad of two, when viewed in that way). This disclaimer aside, I would point out the following things:

    1) The headline is “Joe Biden says Mubarak isn’t a dictator”. The quote says “I would not refer to him as a dictator.” This is getting into some semantics, but its the difference (possibly) between knowing something to be the case, and stating that something is the case. Regardless, this headline is a little misleading.

    2) Whatever Joe Biden, you, me, or anyone else feels about the current regime in Egypt (and my use of the loaded word regime speaks to my own inclination), at the end of the day unless you have a crystal ball it is not possible to know who is going to wind up in control of the country of Egypt at the end of the current troubles. And if the demonstrations are unsuccessful, and Mubarak winds up still in power, *and* we’ve been talking him down so actively while he’s been in this position, then he has no reason to treat us as anything but hostile in the future. So long as we aren’t basing our diplomacy on nothing but idealism, we will find ourselves trying to work with the leaders of other nations who we find distasteful.

    Of course, we could always team up with the protesters, and give them loads of aid and support — but then that verges on yet another foreign engagement (like the two we are in right now). And, of course, we look even more like we just can’t control ourselves when it comes to telling other countries how to govern themselves.

    What we can say and do personally is one thing, and I really, really regret that we can’t currently express ourselves diplomatically with the democratic liberalism that (to me) seems logical, but states seem to have to play by different rules for now.

    • SavvyTennisBalls says:

      Well said. In an age where the US is constantly criticized for forcefully steering other countries in the “right direction” I think we need to lay low for a while and stop imposing our “democratic values” on others. “” for good measure :P

    • Frank W says:

      Who are “we”?

  4. gracchus says:

    “They are a religiously conservative group, no question about it, but they also represent about 20 percent of the Egyptian people,” he said. “And how can you exclude 20 percent of the Egyptian people?”

    I like what ElBaradei is saying, as long as he’s not underestimating the damage that the religion-addled conservative 20% can do to even a mature democracy. The U.S. during the last 30 years stands as a case in point.

    And make no mistake, that the Brotherhood is playing this current process smart is not good news, worse due to the fact that Mubarak and the American neoCon establishment are playing right into their hands.

  5. Antinous / Moderator says:

    Clearly, BB needs to ask Neville Chamberlain to guest blog.

  6. aelfscine says:

    This is our big problem – we maintain our interests in these places by keeping a dictator in power. The dictator becomes unpopular… *because he’s a freaking dictator!!* And then we get thrown out with the bathwater when he gets overthrown.

    We’re (correctly) seen as an influence that kept Fearless Leader in power, and since the new leadership’s position is likely going to be ‘We Do Everything that Fearless Leader Doesn’t Do,’ we’re rolled up and swept out when he goes. Yet another example of our brilliantly evil Machiavellian schemes that DO NOT HELP US AT ALL.

  7. niro5 says:

    Welcome to the real world folks. I would love to support democracy in every country in the world, but unfortunately, I don’t think anyone would really appreciate the results.

    Lets looks at a country like Egypt. Who would be the winners and losers from full free and fair democratic elections.

    Winners:
    Conservative Islamists would likely gain power.

    Losers (From biggest to smallest loser):
    Liberal Muslims – Sorry folks, say bye bye to twitter.
    Israel – there goes the one Arab ally.
    Russia – Just what they needed, another state sponsoring terror.
    Europe – One more country that supports terrorism, closer to you than us though.
    US – Same as above, but a lot further away.

    Also, Client state!? “Hey Egypt, US calling…Listen you haven’t been returning my calls. Hey please contribute soldiers to Iraq, do me a solid brother”

    So in Recap:
    US!=USSR
    Islamic state close to Europe = worse for Europe than for US.
    Democracy is hard. Thats why everyone doesn’t have it. If you truly support democracy, than support it places that are ready for it, like Tunisia.

    • Ugly Canuck says:

      Such unabashed bigotry is rare to see.

      The “real world”, eh?
      More like the world YOU see.

      The way in which other societies govern themselves, societies of which you are not a member, is no concern of yours: and all of the States which you mention have serious internal problems of their own to attend to.

      You want terrorism? Interfere in other distinct societies to mold them into what you would want them to be, or so they act in accord with your, rather than their, desires.

      In fact, just keep on doing what you’ve been doing for the past forty or fifty years: terrorism seems to just keep growing as a concern, eh?
      And the quality of life for the average Westerner has done fine too – hasn’t it?

      • AnthonyC says:

        As long as the people being governed are human, the way they are governed is of concern to me. I have as much right to oppose a policy created in Egypt or China as I do a policy created by the state of Utah or the next school district over. The time when I could reasonably perceive any part of this planet as being so far removed form me that I can reasonably consider myself unrelated to it has passed.

    • Ugly Canuck says:

      Perhaps you ought to simply say: Moslems cannot be allowed to hold effective political power anywhere, without our prior approval.

      And not just Moslems – anybody at all, in fact.

      That is to say, the “acceptablity” of anyone else’s Government whatsoever is dependant upon what “our” interests are, as they are defined by you, right?

      No wonder people don’t like you.

      • niro5 says:

        No need to make this personal. As fart as I am concerned, democracy is the best form of government around and it should be one of this country’s foremost foreign policy goals to spread democracy.

        But democracy is not perfect. That angry German with a funny mustache (not Merkel) was elected by a democracy.

        Just so I’m not accused of being a bigot again…Lets say the US was just now becoming a democracy (make your jokes here, har har har). Who would be elected our first president? My guess is Palin/Beck.

      • niro5 says:

        No need to make this personal. As fart as I am concerned, democracy is the best form of government around and it should be one of this country’s foremost foreign policy goals to spread democracy.

        But democracy is not perfect. That angry German with a funny mustache (not Merkel) was elected by a democracy.

        Just so I’m not accused of being a bigot again…Lets say the US was just now becoming a democracy (make your jokes here, har har har). Who would be elected our first president? My guess is Palin/Beck.

    • bobthecitizen says:

      another nation “supporting terror”?

      You mean like attacking other countries other than in a state of declared war? Or invading without the backing of international law? or sponsoring violent dissent? or supplying weapons to insurgents?

      The USA is the number one terrorist group in the world by a stout margin.

      I reccomend reading all of the UN minutes, it’s disturbing how many times our “allies” discuss military action against us, how Obama is seen as just as much a war monger as Bush. We are hated, feared, and the target of a growing group that will shut us down when, not if, the opportunity arises.

    • Neon Tooth says:

      Conservative Islamists would likely gain power.

      Following the established U.S./Mubarak script eh?

      The Brotherhood is no longer the most effective player in the political arena,” said Emad Shahin, an Egyptian scholar now at the University of Notre Dame. “If you look at the Tunisian uprising, it’s a youth uprising. It is the youth that knows how to use the media, Internet, Facebook, so there are other players now.”

      Dr. ElBaradei argued that by upsetting the old relationship between Mr. Mubarak and the Brotherhood, the youth movement posed a new challenge to United States policy makers as well.

      “For years,” he said, “the West has bought Mr. Mubarak’s demonization of the Muslim Brotherhood lock, stock and barrel, the idea that the only alternative here are these demons called the Muslim Brotherhood who are the equivalent of Al Qaeda.”

      Nor, Dr. ElBaradei argued, does the Muslim Brotherhood merit the fear its name evokes in the West. Its membership embraces large numbers of professors, lawyers and other professionals as well as followers who benefit from its charities. It has not committed or condoned acts of violence since the uprising against the British-backed Egyptian monarchy six decades ago, and it has endorsed his call for a pluralistic civil democracy.

      “They are a religiously conservative group, no question about it, but they also represent about 20 percent of the Egyptian people,” he said. “And how can you exclude 20 percent of the Egyptian people?”

      He added: “I am pretty sure that any freely and fairly elected government in Egypt will be a moderate one, but America is really pushing Egypt and pushing the whole Arab world into radicalization with this inept policy of supporting repression.”

      Mr. Mubarak’s government, though, is so far sticking to a familiar script. Against all evidence, his interior minister immediately laid blame for Wednesday’s unrest at the foot of the government’s age-old foe, the Muslim Brotherhood.

      This time, though, the Brotherhood disclaimed responsibility. “People took part in the protests in a spontaneous way, and there is no way to tell who belonged to what,” said Gamal Nassar, a media adviser for the Brotherhood, noting the near-total absence of any group’s signs or slogans, including the Brotherhood’s.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/27/world/middleeast/27opposition.html?_r=2&hp

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hosni mubarak has long outstayed his welcome. But you have to understand that the situation in Egypt now is very similar to Iran in the 70′s. The Muslim Brotherhood has gained widespread support and while they are not the Taliban or even the Ayatollah, I don’t think you guys would prefer the new regime to be an Islamic one.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hang on, didn’t The Who write a song about this sort of thing?

    /me wears his parting on the left, thankyouverymuch.

  10. Anonymous says:

    that sounds a bit like what members of the german government said about tunisia: chancellor merkel called on the ben ali government to moderate their reaction and foreign minister westerwelle said he wished that the country could return to stability.

    how cynical it is to ask a country of prisoners to return to stability.

    .~.

  11. Tatsuma says:

    In another extraordinary audio report Jack Shenker in Cairo reports on signs that the police are siding with the protesters. He saw a senior police officer discard a teargas canister to signal to protesters that he was on their side. Will the regime fall he asked a state journalist. “It’s already falling, it can’t stop,” Jack was told.

    Jack has seen tens of thousands of protesters on the streets, some chanting “we are change”.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2011/jan/28/egypt-protests-live-updates

  12. martinhekker says:

    I have no idea what is going on in Egypt and so remain open minded about what is best. However, outside of the romantic myth of the desert that Islam provides, religion is fundamentally a brain killer, and so put my chips on the cynical prediction that this will yet another example of manufactured dissent overtaking legitimate dissent. Hordes of “lost boys” will provide boots on the ground and the secular middle class will simply find themselves in a new form of badness. I simply cannot believe that only 20% of the masses have bought into the God myth. It is not plausible.

    • Neon Tooth says:

      secular middle class

      I think the lack of a middle class and abundance of extreme poverty is why so many Egyptians are angry….

      Maybe we don’t know what’s best for everybody.

    • Mister44 says:

      re: “I simply cannot believe that only 20% of the masses have bought into the God myth. It is not plausible.”

      Do what now? Are you saying only 20% are religious? I thought the 20% as the Muslim Brotherhood.

      According to the CIA World Factbook:
      Muslim (mostly Sunni) 90%, Coptic 9%, other Christian 1%

      As a side note – supposedly the Ark is kept in one of the Christian churches down there.

  13. Brainspore says:

    Well of course he wouldn’t REFER to Mubarak as a dictator- he does have some sense of diplomacy, after all. But just because a politician doesn’t publicly refer to an ally as the “dictator” of Egypt or the “ridiculously corrupt figurehead” of Afghanistan or the “jailbait-addicted pervert” of Italy doesn’t mean he thinks the description is inaccurate.

  14. iburl says:

    Either you support democracy or not. Joe Biden or Dick Cheney shouldn’t get to decide who gets a dictator. Egypt supporting us in the Mideast peace process? Well, the peace process has been a stain on humanity and a complete failure. Its like saying that the fox is helping the wolf in the chicken coop peace process. We use Egypt to torture detainees, that’s one of Biden’s big nationalsecurity interests. And we wonder why Biden got less votes than the rent’s too damn high party in the 2008 primaries.

  15. irksome says:

    ” Yeah but he’s OUR dictator.”

  16. Rayonic says:

    Weren’t there some people who thought Saddam Hussein would be better than some of the potential alternatives in Iraq? (e.g. sectarian fighting, hardline islamist government, etc.) And isn’t Mubarak better than Hussein overall? I don’t recall any mass killings in Egypt, at least.

    I’m not saying this uprising is good or bad, I’m just trying to draw parallels.

    Sure, there’s a world of difference between an internal revolution versus getting your government overthrown by a foreign power. (Though there was an internal uprising in Iraq too, and it didn’t end well.)

  17. Daemon says:

    Well, there’s no way he’s come out and call him a dictator in public. Even if it’s true, it’s an insult. They need all the support in the Muslim world they can get.

    Though his response makes it sound as though he’s radically redefining the term.

  18. Matthew Walton says:

    None of the points Biden made suggest that Mubarak isn’t a dicator… they’re just reasons why he might not be a particularly evil kind of dictator. So it’s not a very good answer, and I also don’t think it’s the most important question.

    The important question is: an apparently substantial chunk of the Egyptian population is very unhappy. What is the Egyptian government going to do about it? Try to fix things? Shoot the protestors? Step down and call an election?

    The problem with demanding an election is that most electoral systems are broken, and you always end up with somebody who several somebodies don’t like.

  19. niro5 says:

    hahahaha, I said “fart” **points, laughs**

  20. Lobster says:

    I’m not sure why this is so stunning. Did we forget about Saudi Arabia, or do they just not count?

  21. gracchus says:

    Perhaps you ought to simply say: Moslems cannot be allowed to hold effective political power anywhere, without our prior approval.

    It’s more accurate to say that it’s generally undesirable (at least for liberals) to have religious fundamentalists holding effective political power anywhere, however they achieve it. That goes as much for Xtianists in the U.S. as it does for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

    Assuming you two can agree on that, the follow-on question regarding Egypt is what would be the best (not the perfect, the best) outcome there. If niro5 is arguing that a return to power for Mubarak, his cronies, and their various sons and idiot nephews would be the best outcome, I’d disagree with him — the regime lost its legitimacy at least 24-hours ago, and all the truncheons and rubber bullets and torture chambers that Mubarak is so fond of won’t change that.

    Mohamed ElBaradei seems to me like the best choice for liberals. He was a little too quick to pronounce his willingness to take power, but I’ll take a secular Nobel Prize Winner, pro-democracy activist, and campaigner against nuclear proliferation over a bunch of mullahs and their thugs any day of the week.

    Fortunately, given that Egypt is relatively cosmopolitan compared to other Arab states, there’s a good chance that ElBaradei will be the legitimate people’s choice once Mubarak and his fellow authoritarian kleptocrats are sent packing.

    As to what the Americans should do, their best bet is to keep their mouths shut, wait for the right moment, and have Obama call Mubarak privately: “Hosni, babes, you had a good run but, sorry, it’s game over. Now here’s Hillary to tell you about your fabulous consolation prizes.” Then more of the mouth-shutting, with quiet financial and campaign support for ElBaradei against the religious nuts.

    Sadly, the U.S. and especially Joe Biden don’t do “mouths shut” very well.

  22. noen says:

    “That angry German with a funny mustache (not Merkel) was elected by a democracy.”

    Hitler was not elected by popular vote. He was appointed through back-room deals, backstabbing, lies and threats of a military coup. He never received more than 37% of the popular vote.

  23. rebdav says:

    Israel is democratic, the Arab minority may not like that Jews are the majority unlike the rest of the Middle East but it is the case. Not much chance of an Egyptian uprising since there is a peaceful way to affect change.
    The UN has already created one Palestinian state when it partitioned post WW-I Mandatory Palestine(a post Ottoman district of southern Syria created by the UK and France) and gave 3/4 to Jordan. The UK installed a king for Jordan the Hashemite family former Arabian ruling family after the Saudi family took Arabia.
    After the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza the US puppet Palestinian Authority was quickly overthrown by Hamas and now southern Israel gets to absorb rocket attacks every day.
    How are we supposed to make peace with an entity like the PA that no matter what peace it makes with Israel will be punished by the population and overthrown for making ANY concessions to the hated Zionist entity? Since the Oslo ‘peace’ conference where the PA was put in power a whole generation has been taught that peace means never compromising.
    Most of the problems in the middle east are a result of the US, UK, and former Soviet union using the Israelis as an excuse for stealing from the Arabs, the rest are a result of dictatorships blaming every problem on the Israelis.
    There is no chance of a peaceful settlement as long as the average Arab on the street believes the only solution is to eliminate the Jews from the region, no matter how peaceful an educated minority may be.
    Most Jewish Israelis would do anything even creating a second Palestinian state, or third if Gaza stays separate, if it meant a peace that doesn’t have a strong risk of us being overrun and slaughtered in under 20 years.
    We can actually make a peace with the Arabs if we and the Palestinians are not constantly manipulated by outsiders for their benefit, we had a pretty massacre free 2000 years with the Arabs all over the middle east post roman ethnic cleansing. It is in Europe that we have only had a short 60 year reprieve, once most of us were killed or driven out, from constant unending rape, robbery, and murder.
    Beware just like the religion of Communism was not the cure to the worlds woes Democracy and one person one vote can also lead to despotic regimes, look at the US.
    I know that this is unpopular on BB but it is rare that any realistic workable discussion is made on this topic in English, Hebrew, or Arabic that will lead to a stable arrangement.

  24. zyodei says:

    From the horse’s mouth:

    “Should Mubarak be seen as a dictator?

    JOE BIDEN: Look, Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things and he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interests in the region: Middle East peace efforts, the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing the relationship with Israel.

    And I think that it would be — I would not refer to him as a dictator.”

    Simple equation – Support Israel = Not Dictator

  25. Ugly Canuck says:

    “I simply cannot believe that only 20% of the masses have bought into the God myth. It is not plausible.”

    Egypt society has a very long and utterly unique history when it comes to gods, and their succession. The result is a complexity and sophistication as to religious matters, that is to say, Egypt has an ancient and native “multi-culturalism” or tolerance in religious matters, which some may fail to appreciate.

    For example of this complexity, the Copts of Egypt pre-date the birth of the prophet Mohammed.

    At the same time, the Copts have ever been in schism with the other Christians, whether Latin or Greek – thus, Egyptians know that any violence directed at Copts, by anybody whatsoever, is yet still nothing other than an attack on Egyptians themselves.

    Not to mention the differences between the various Muslim sects themselves! There was a time in the past when Egypt was a S’hia state, like Persia or Iran is today.

  26. petsounds says:

    “characterized by blatantly stolen elections, suspension of civil liberties, torture and arbitrary detention”

    This is the reason VP Biden wouldn’t characterize Mubarak as a dictator. It’s because those things apply quite aptly to many recent US government administrations.

  27. noen says:

    “Democracy and one person one vote can also lead to despotic regimes”

    [Citation needed]

    • flosofl says:

      “Democracy and one person one vote can also lead to despotic regimes”

      [Citation needed]

      Nazi Germany, maybe?

      • Narmitaj says:

        “Democracy and one person one vote can also lead to despotic regimes”
        [Citation needed]

        Isn’t that the whole point of the Electoral College in the US Constitution? The danger is that the population at large left untrammelled in an OMOV Presidential election might be stampeded or brainwashed to vote for some populist despotic-minded rabble-rouser, so the founders arranged that the wise electors of the Electoral College would provide a sensible barrier and actually elect someone more reasonable.

        • Owen says:

          The only time the electoral college has differed from the popular vote in living memory was in 2000, when Gore got the national popular vote and the electors went for Bush. I don’t believe Gore was “despotic-minded”. If you agree, then the Electoral College did nothing but deny the people the right to choose their leader, regardless of what the founders intended.

          Yeah, democracy sometimes leads to despotism. But Egypt has despotism right now – if they overthrow the current despot they at least have a chance of building something better.

  28. Teller says:

    In recent photos of Mubarek, I see a great resemblance to La Pina. Perhaps with a similar fate ahead.

  29. niro5 says:

    Certainly Mubarak isn’t the best choice, but what choices are there? I think the US needs to start pushing our despotic “friends” a lot harder on the democracy front. Repression is never in anyone’s interest, not the people’s not the despots and not the western world’s.

    If the US had not supported a dictatorship in South Korea, it is very likely that Kim Jung-IL would be ruling the entire peninsula now. Stability has to come before democracy. Hitler might never have won a majority in an election to gain power, but he did use the democracy to give his ascent legitimacy. Napoleon had followed a similar route to turn the ideals the French revolution on their head to make himself emperor.

    Remember all the democratic elections in the new post-soviet states after the fall of communism? How many of the winners of that first election are still in power?

    Democracy is like a flower (ohhh man cheesy), its a beautiful thing. But it is fragile, and it must be nurtured, and don’t bother trying to grow one in the middle of winter.

  30. senorglory says:

    i hope biden never wins a presidential nomination.

    • Mister44 says:

      Biden as Pres.
      Palin as Vice Pres.
      Dan Quayle as Press Secetary

      It would known as a new golden age of comedy, as each one would provide multiple gaffes per day – haha.

  31. Anonymous says:

    > And [Mubarak has] been very responsible on, relative to
    > geopolitical interest in the region, the Middle East peace efforts

    Yes what a massive success that was.

    Steve Clemons (washintonnote.com) suggests that Mubaraks right hand man Omar Suleiman (which Mubarak just crowned vice president) actually sabotaged the attempts at putting together a Palestinian unity government. Seems like some people, including some in the US, prefer the Palestinians divided and in chaos rather than united and at the negotiating table.

    One can argue about the politics of closing the Gaza/Egypt border, but since the people of Gaza are in dire need of food, trade, aid, medical help in real hospitals etc etc, calling the closed border policy “responsible” would not be my choice of words. And that what you get when US politicians start improvising on their talkingpoints: horrifying gibberish.

  32. niro5 says:

    “Democracy and one person one vote can also lead to despotic regimes”

    [Citation needed]
    Nazi Germany, maybe?
    ——–
    See also:
    The First French Republic
    Venezuela (starting to show bad signs)
    Russia
    Ancient Athens

    • Owen says:

      Democracy does not lead to despotism as often as despotism leads to more despotism. How’s that?

      Egypt has had despotism for decades, thanks in no small part to the US. If they create a democracy, fundamentalists might end up in power. But if they do nothing, a dictator will surely stay in power.

      You say that democracy has to follow stability. Do you think that Egypt was stable before these demonstrations? If so, then how do you know that democracy isn’t following stability right in front of you? If not, then what good is it to preserve such a useless government?

  33. mn_camera says:

    If this is another retread of the “SOB, but he’s our SOB” version of international affairs, I genuinely hope it has a better outcome than every other time it’s been said.

    And as for the heartwarming notion of popular uprisings in autocratic (or theocratic, for that matter) states, be careful what you wish for. They don’t often end well even if they result in turnover at the top.

  34. anansi133 says:

    I love the last line of the article:

    Egypt’s protesters, if they’re paying attention to Biden at all, will certainly be wondering which of their demands thus far have been illegitimate.

    I think technically, Biden is correct. Egypt isn’t a dictatorship, so much as a client state. Client states need to be thought of in context with their patron states.

    Surely many people don’t want to think that what’s happening in Egypt right now can happen here. But Wikileaks has only released a small fraction of what it’s got. Have they already released their most damning avidence, or are they keeping their powder dry?

    Biden’s regime knows what’s in those cables, so his actions speak volumes.

    • Owen says:

      Why can’t Egypt be a client state and a dictatorship? I think it’s both – a client state, in that it takes our money and often backs us, and a dictatorship in that it has an unelected leader who suppresses and tortures his opposition.

      • anansi133 says:

        Here’s three names for you;

        Mohammad Reza Pahlavi

        Ngo Dinh Diem

        Philippe Pétain

        No doubt, if a family member had been hauled off during one of these reigns, I’d think of them as dictators. But no one I know recognizes these names as anything but figureheads for puppet governments.

        $1.5bn US says, “puppet government”

  35. gracchus says:

    Certainly Mubarak isn’t the best choice, but what choices are there?

    For one thing, fostering secular pro-democracy alternatives long before things come to a head, and encouraging constitutional reforms like term limits. It’s not like up-and-coming politicians from all over the world don’t come to the U.S. to study. And it’s not like the U.S. is helpless when it comes to leaning on client states to do its bidding.

    And yet the only school that seems to count is the School of the Americas, and the only time the U.S. leans on a client state to make changes is when it directly and immediately benefits short-term U.S. interests. American governments just don’t have a great track record when it comes to long-term thinking.

    One aspect of realpolitik that the U.S. repeatedly ignores is the issue of legitimacy. Once a regime loses it, it’s unsustainable and effectively useless as a client even if it’s propped up. The result is usually something along the lines of Iran ca. 1979, or Vietnam ca. 1975.

    Finally, I gave you another choice beyond Mubarak or the Muslim Brotherhood. Why don’t you think that ElBaradei is better than Mubarak (assuming you think he’s any choice at all)?

    Remember all the democratic elections in the new post-soviet states after the fall of communism? How many of the winners of that first election are still in power?

    That situation in those cases was more due to the raft of misguided austerity measures imposed by the IMF on those states. When people are starving and desperate, eventually they’ll turn back to authoritarian scumbags. Since you’re interested in the origins of the Nazi state, I’d advise you to read up on the effect of Heinrich Brüning’s Weimar-era reforms in this regard.

  36. Flying_Monkey says:

    But Ben Ali in Tunisia was a ‘friend’ of the US too and that didn’t do him any good. I think (or hope) that the time when it mattered that the US did or did not like any particular dictator or repressive regime may finally be coming to an end… however they do have a lot invested in Mubarak and are much more worried about the extent to which radical Islamists might take power in Egypt than they are in Tunisia.

  37. egoVirus says:

    This is international politics at its finest: America needs Egypt, but not that badly. Solution: show support through a politically irrelevant, and not terribly respected high ranker, aka the VP! This IS the bread and butter of that office.

  38. Pantograph says:

    Satellite states are falling and the mother country is getting uneasy. If we continue to compare this to Eastern Europe in 1989, then I believe we have now positively identified the Soviet Union equivalent. (Would such a model map Israel onto North Korea, Cuba or Albania I wonder?)

    • phillamb168 says:

      Ehhh… That’s a bit of a stretch.

      • Akheloios says:

        Possibly a little hyperbolic, but these are US client states, and losing them would be a huge blow to US interests. I doubt the US will collapse any time soon, but hard-liners won’t like it if the US loses any more influence in the world. How much will they let slip before pushing the US into total totalitarianism? The Tea Party seems perfectly constructed to usher in a ‘President for Life’ to handle the trouble.

      • Pantograph says:

        Yeah it is a bit of a stretch, but stretching is both fun and healthy.

        Gorbachev had Glasnost and Obama has Assange.
        Gorbachev had Perestroika, Obama promised Change.

        Israel can be the GDR. After all, they have a capital city divided by a wall.

  39. urbanhick says:

    He wouldn’t recognize a dictator if one bit him on the Aswan.

  40. Anonymous says:

    “US vice-president Joe Biden told PBS NewsHour that Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak (who as presided over a 29 year reign characterized by blatantly stolen elections, suspension of civil liberties, torture and arbitrary detention) isn’t a dictator”

    Obviously. If he had called him a dictator, he would sort of be calling the post-911-US a dictatorship. Most of the criteria you inserted fit.

  41. a_user says:

    Egypt borders Israel. Tunisia doesn’t.

  42. jtegnell says:

    Yet he thinks Assange is a “terrorist”.

    I’ve lost my patience with the man.

  43. Neon Tooth says:

    Egypt borders Israel. Tunisia doesn’t.

    Bingo.

    U.S. and Israel don’t want this to happen. Most people here are smart enough to know that U.S. policy has never been about “democracy”. Western media is doing its part playing along too, remember how we were all captivated by “Neda” in Iran? Well that was the good kind of protest because Iran has managed to maintain some kind of hold on their sovereignty, which is totally annoying! Meanwhile Egyptian snipers are shooting protesters in the head.

    Watch an Al Jazeera newsman turn U.S. State Dept. spokesman J.C. Crowley into a blubbering, stuttering, hypocritical mess: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmEcQMwprIo

    Anyway, glad to see boing boing devote more time to this now.

  44. turn_self_off says:

    Cheney ran Bush like a sock puppet, is Biden doing the same with Obama?

  45. Brook says:

    I’m sure that if you asked Biden the same question “off the record”, he would respond differently. This is just a case of politics and Biden not wanting to alienate the relatively good relations they have with Egypt (which is one of the only middle eastern countries to legitimately recognize the existence of Israel).

    I’m actually more surprised that he didn’t flub it all up by saying the thought Mubarak WAS a dictator.

    • a_user says:

      @Brook

      The US have propped up the Mubarak government, so it’s not surprising Egypt “shares” certain key US foreign policies.

      Putting this into perspective – all the hardware being used on the protesters was paid for by US citizens. Your tax dollars at work as it were.

  46. Anonymous says:

    Meanwhile, asked by an RT anchor, “are you saying there is definitely an American influence behind what’s happening, we’re seeing now behind the likes of Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia and the other countries?” William Engdahl replies “sure, yes, indeed…”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDC3yLeVEXM among others.

    Here’s the full PBS NewsHour Biden interview:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3twWTFF0hQ

    Really wish I had time this morning to condense Biden’s remarks into a reply video to tag onto uploads of the RT/Engdahl piece.

  47. jeffasselin says:

    So let me guess his argument is:

    1- The United States don’t support dictators
    2- The United States support Mubarak

    Therefore

    Mubarak is not a dictator.

  48. Gloster says:

    Admittedly, he had a very limited range of acceptable public responses to that question. Still: Barf…

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