Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

The Mind of Hosni Mubarak

by Elliott Abrams Friday, February 4, 2011

Americans must wonder why Egypt’s president does not understand what seems obvious to so many of us: that he should step down now and thereby help bring Egypt’s crisis to an end. Mubarak gave his own explanation yesterday to ABC News: “You don’t understand the Egyptian culture and what would happen if I step down now.”

Having been in a great number of meetings with Mubarak during the Bush years,  I believe I know what he’s thinking. Mubarak is not a thief like Tunisia’s Ben Ali or a vicious murderer like Saddam Hussein, and refuses (until now, anyway) to leave because he actually believes what he told ABC.  His view has two components. The first is that Egypt is a tinder box, not today but every day. He has never viewed Egypt, not for one day during his three decades of power, as a stable country. I can recall his reaction to small incidents like a demonstration of workers here or there, a strike, or a protest over bread prices. He saw these not as minor annoyances but as dangerous moments, and rushed to provide subsidies for prices and send in police reinforcements. The cork could pop out of the bottle at any time, he seemed to think. He genuinely believes that absolute chaos would result if he stepped aside.

The second component is his view that Arabs must be ruled with an iron hand. This was his practice in Egypt and his repeated recommendation to Americans for Iraq; he thought Iraq could only be governed by a tough-minded general, the same formula he obviously liked and lived for Egypt. The choice for Arab lands was a tough general, a clever king, or chaos. None of this nonsense about democracy, not in the Arab world. In this he took the view that President Bush abandoned in his Freedom Agenda– that the Arab world was not and would never be ready for democracy. If there was ever a proponent of “Arab exceptionalism,” it was Hosni Mubarak. To him these were the sole places on earth where freedom had to be kept at bay.

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Free Sandmonkey!

by Elliott Abrams Thursday, February 3, 2011

Events in Egypt are moving fast—and deteriorating faster. Here is the text of a post by Sandmonkey, the leading Egyptian blogger, who was arrested today, beaten, and then released. He recently tweets: “I am ok. I got out. I was ambushed & beaten by the police, my phone confiscated, my car ripped apar& supplies taken. will tell the story later. Thank you all. I just need to rest now. I am humbled by you all. Thank you so much. I am trying to get a decent computer to write it all. Please don’t respond to my phone or BBM. This isn’t me. My phone was confiscated by a thug of an officer who insults those who call.”  The link to his blog may not work if the Government of Egypt has cut it off. [Also, here’s the transcript of a live chat on the subject of events in Egypt I did recently at the Washington Post.]

from www.sandmonkey.org :

Egypt, right now!

I don’t know how to start writing this. I have been battling fatigue for not sleeping properly for the past 10 days, moving from one’s friend house to another friend’s house, almost never spending a night in my home, facing a very well funded and well organized ruthless regime that views me as nothing but an annoying bug that its time to squash will come. The situation here is bleak to say the least.
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Israel and Egypt

by Elliott Abrams Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) shakes hands with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak in this handout picture provided by the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO) during their meeting in Sharm El Sheikh January 6, 2011. (Ho New/Courtesy Reuters)

The end of the Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt has occasioned approval and excitement in most democratic countries, but not in Israel. Why not?

Fear is the main answer: fear that Mubarak will be followed by the Muslim Brotherhood immediately or after a few months or years. This fear is reasonable, for none of us can possibly know what the future holds for Egypt. The cold peace that Mubarak supported with Israel is certainly far better than war.

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