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January 30, 2011


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It might have enraged the Clinton camp, but the original comment is more unfair to President Nixon. Very hard to imagine President Clinton creating an opening to China (almost single-handed, bypassing the State dept).

Any thoughts on Egypt Ian? It's interesting to think how differently recent presidents would have handled this. White House currently seems rather uncertain.

Ian Leslie

Well, Egypt is a great example of where - arguably - Obama's incrementalism has left the US on the backfoot. There was a fascinating interview on R4 Today this morning with a former US diplomat who said that the last time the US really pushed for democratic reform in Egypt was 2003-2005, under Bush's 'Freedom Agenda'. They made some progress. But in Bush's last years and then even more so under Obama, that initiative withered and was replaced by 'don't frighten the horses' diplomacy. Mubarak went back to his old ways, until the people took to the streets. As a result, the US is now playing catch-up, struggling to position itself with respect to what's going on. I say 'arguably' because I'm sure Obama's people would argue that pushing harder for change would have been counter-productive. But whatever way you look at it, his approach has been ultra-cautious and piecemeal, which, as I say, contrasts to the way he portrayed himself during the campaign.


Is it a reasonable argument that the White House are correct to follow 'don't frighten the horses', in that right now, there's no obvious (desirable) opposition party to take over in Egypt?

If the White House really feel that Mubarak is a strategic ally and musn't be toppled, but can't say so publicly, there's nothing wrong with that as a policy. But if that's the case, that's where the 'catch-up' comes from- they don't want change at all, but issue a statement after something happens, to stay on the right side of the press/public.

BBC news had an interview with a protester (well educated), who vehemently said Mubarak ought to go on trial. When pressed as to 'what for', she started mumbling, interestingly.



Is the "fox rather than a hedgehog" a British idiom? Are hedgehogs bold? They look very cute (and tiny) in the pics I've seen. Sadly, no hedgehogs in California.

Barring cataclysmic natural disaster(s), events unfolding in Egypt will surely launch the biggest stories of 2011.


Hedgehogs pretty much just shuffle about timidly. And yes they are cute.

Ian Leslie


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