Egypt: Obama in the Middle

Published February 1, 2011

Ever since pro-democracy uprisings began to rock Egypt,  it sent shockwaves from Cairo, all the way to the nation’s capital. 

While some key Democrats are calling on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step aside, President Obama has taken a decidedly balanced approach in handling the latest developments abroad.  

Now the U.S. has found itself in the middle of a delicate balancing act.  On one hand,  President Mubarak has been a long-standing U.S. ally in a region where stability and peace are often elusive commodities.  But on the other hand,  President Obama can’t be viewed as standing in the way of a nation’s quest for democracy.  After all, his 2009 speech in Cairo seemed to lay out the United States’ position for all to see.    In that speech, the President said the following:

“America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.”

WATCH: Video from Obama's 2009 Speech in Egypt

The ideals outlined in the President’s speech appear to echo the cries of the Egyptian people at this time.   And while the President vowed to support a nation’s call for democracy, he is now forced to walk a political tightrope no Western leader seems to envy.  Egypt’s positioning cannot be ignored.  Egypt has a peace agreement with Israel and that nation also controls the strategically-located Suez Canal.   If the country shifts from a dictatorship headed by Mubarak, to a democracy headed by an untested leader, the future of US-Egypt relations and peace in the Middle East now hang in the balance.  

But here on the home front, the protests have proven to be a distraction the Obama Administration did not see coming.  In the week following the State of the Union Address, the focus was supposed to be on the President’s new job-creation agenda.  But now all eyes are on the volatile situation in Cairo and our seemingly unpredictable relationship with one of our most important allies. 

Written by Andre Showell, BET News

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