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February 02, 2011

Clashes Breaking Out in Tahrir Square In Cairo

It's a little after 11 in Egypt and clashes are breaking out in Cairo. No camels yet but shots being fired into the air, Molitov Cocktails being thrown back and forth.

I understand that Obama was trying to engineer a soft landing here and I actually supported that. But...with regime backed violence breaking out against pro-reform/freedom forces, the US simply can not sit back and pretend to be even handed.

$3 Billion a year for 30 years should have bought us some influence here, especially within the military. It's time to play what cards we have and do what we can to get Mubarak out and get some sort of interim government (probably featuring an Army leader at its head) set up. One without Mubarak playing any part in it.

Along those lines, John McCain says time's up.

Regrettably the time has come 4 Pres. Mubarak 2 step down & relinquish power. Itís in the best interest of Egypt, its people & its military.

I have more than a few problems with McCain but I'd rather him in charge at times like this than Obama.

On the upside, Obama has a history of following McCain's lead on things like this.

MORE: Robert Gibbs gave his daily briefing today and it was a disaster. He was equivocal and vacillating throughout. I get that this is a complex situation and the administration was trying to walk a fine line on policy and between public and private action. If you're going to do that, your communication strategy has to be spot on and in this case it's been anything but.

Gibbs was asked what the President thought of the images of the clashes this morning. The answer was he found them "outrageous and deplorable". He left it at that. If the President of the United States finds the actions of one of it's main allies "outrageous and deplorable" then something, some action has to follow. It hasn't. That's simply a failure of leadership.

Also, note the sequence of events. Mubarak gave his "I'm staying until September" speech, he and Obama spoke for 30 minutes, Obama gives a statement saying the transition has to start now and the next day...the regime in Egypt unleashes violence on its people. What an amazing rebuke by Mubarak to the President of the United States of America.

The ability of the US to influence, let alone control events like these are far more limited than we'd like to admit. There are no guarantees about how this is going to turn out but every crisis has a turning point, a moment when you simply have to pick a side, even though all available options are bad and fraught with peril. That moment is here for the US. We have to make a move and manage the consequences as best we can as they arise. It seems to me as dangerous as it will be to deal with what comes next in Egypt, it's simply untenable for the US to go on backing Mubarak after this. What's Obama going to do?

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posted by DrewM. at 04:13 PM

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