But they also show U.S. pressure is viewed skeptically by Mubarak, who believes ill-advised U.S. pushes for reform in the Middle East have produced colossal mistakes, from the ouster of the Shah of Iran to the election of Hamas Islamists in Gaza.
“We have heard him lament the results of earlier U.S. efforts to encourage reform in the Islamic world,” the U.S. embassy in Cairo told Clinton in a cable before Mubarak’s visit to Washington in May 2009.
“He can harken back to the Shah of Iran: the U.S. encouraged him to accept reforms, only to watch the country fall into the hands of revolutionary religious extremists. Wherever he has seen these U.S. efforts, he can point to the chaos and loss of stability that ensued.” ~Reuters
The problem that democratists have is that Mubarak is basically right about all of this. Of course, he’s going to look for reasons to avoid opening up Egypt’s political system to more competition, but just because he’s self-interested doesn’t mean he’s mistaken. One thing to take away from this is that every other time the U.S. has claimed to be seriously interested in promoting political reform in the Near East, it has either been associated with the empowerment of militants and terrorists, the devastation and occupation of an entire country, or some combination of the two. We know why Mubarak doesn’t want political reform, but isn’t it remotely possible that his skepticism is more well-founded than Western demands for reform?
What the report also shows is that the Obama administration has been pressing Mubarak for reforms. They just haven’t been doing it in public. That ought to put to rest the garbage analysis we’ve been hearing from the crowd at the Post that the protests in Egypt are somehow the fault of the administration’s supposed lack of agitation on the subject of reform. It should also drive home just how irrelevant American advocacy for reform really is: advocacy for these things has been going on all this time, and if anything Mubarak has simply become more stubborn and skeptical of the idea. Bearing the example of the Shah in mind, Mubarak has resisted. The better question is this: why do so many Americans want him to acquiesce in a process that will lead to regime collapse?