Eli Lake: Lessons From 2005 ... the Last Time the U.S. Faced a Democratization Crisis in Egypt





[Eli Lake is a contributing editor for The New Republic.]

Everyone now understands that President Obama faces a set of difficult choices in Egypt. Cut Mubarak loose, and risk a revolt from the other American clients in the region while potentially empowering the Muslim Brotherhood. Support Mubarak, and earn the enmity of Arabs and Muslims across the Middle East who correctly see the United States working in tandem with the autocrats who repress them.

What has largely gone undiscussed, however, is that the United States faced a very similar dilemma in Egypt once before. Back in 2005, the Bush administration had to make more or less the same calculation. It’s worth revisiting that episode now, if only because it illustrates how difficult a time America has had arriving at an Egypt policy that is coherent, wise, and principled.

In his second inaugural address in January 2005, President Bush declared that America would no longer “tolerate oppression for the sake of stability.” Mubarak responded nine days later by charging the country’s leading opposition figure, Ayman Nour, with forgery. But, at least initially, the Bush administration did not blink...


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