Foreign affairs is not my strong point. I’m better versed in domestic issues. But I do see a current American dilemma boiling down to the following scenario:
You’ve known your buddy for years. You’ve had good times. When you see your buddy treat his girlfriend pretty shabby, you look the other way. After all, your buddy is one of the only guys in his neighborhood whom you feel you can count on. Suddenly one day his girlfriend says she’s had enough. She burns his clothes and tosses them out the window. She goes running out the front door. He chases her out of the house. Does he have a gun? A baseball bat? Maybe he’s just shaking his fists? What do you do? You love the guy after all. But you’ve got standards. You see how he’s mistreated her all these years. You know she has every right to protest. She has every right to want him out of her life. So the best you can do is tell him to stop shaking his fist, or to put down the bat or the gun. You love the guy but you don’t want everyone thinking you condone his bad behavior. Then again, he is one of the only dependable guys in the neighborhood. Man, you’re in a spot, aren’t you?
For the past thirty years, we’ve been buddies with Hosni Mubarak. We’ve stood by as he has promised governmental reform to his people and never delivered. Now in a wave of protest that started in Tunisia and spread to Egypt, Mubarak’s people are pissed and they’re not going to take it anymore. But as in the case of the guy whose buddy’s abused girlfriend finally leaves him, President Barack Obama had to walk a fine line this week of pledging support to Mubarak while warning him not to run after his “girlfriend” with a baseball bat or a gun.
This business of allies is quite complicated. Sometimes you make friends with the best of a bad bunch. In an ideal world, would we really be friends with Hamid Karzai or Asif Zardari, two men who repeatedly snub us in both word and action?
Well, as I said, I’m no foreign affairs expert. I just know it’s a real pain when your buddy’s been acting like an ass and finally gets called on it. Now you’ve got to choose between loyalty and virtue. This week, it looks like we tried to have our cake and eat it too.