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You’re so vain, you probably think these protests are about you

As the unrest in Egypt continues, and Washington wonks are beginning to weigh in, I’m starting to see a familiar pattern: The discussion is shifting from what’s happening on the ground — which is still in flux — to what the United States should or shouldn’t do about it. The Washington Post weighed in last ...

As the unrest in Egypt continues, and Washington wonks are beginning to weigh in, I’m starting to see a familiar pattern: The discussion is shifting from what’s happening on the ground — which is still in flux — to what the United States should or shouldn’t do about it.

The Washington Post weighed in last night with a rather predictable criticism of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s first statement on the protests, and now Politico is channeling some of the complaints by outside observers who say that the administration should be speaking out more aggressively in support of the demonstrators.

My colleague Marc Lynch has already weighed in on this topic this morning, but here are my two cents: It’s not about us. Indeed, what’s been refreshing about the events in Tunisia and Egypt has been that very little of it has anything to do with the United States. For the most part, the demonstrators aren’t chanting anti-American slogans; they’re calling on their own corrupt, sclerotic rulers to stand aside. And that’s a very healthy phenomenon.

Instead of having Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama say some magic democracy words, I’d much rather see the United States think hard about its system of support for these autocrats. Can the U.S. credibly call for freedom in Egypt when it’s subsidizing the Egyptian military to the tune of a billion and a half dollars a year? Is Egypt really so helpful when it comes to the "peace process" between Israel and the Palestinians? Can we live with the Muslim Brotherhood in power, or closer to it? If the answer to these questions is the same as it’s been for the last few decades, it’s probably best to keep our big mouths shut.

As the unrest in Egypt continues, and Washington wonks are beginning to weigh in, I’m starting to see a familiar pattern: The discussion is shifting from what’s happening on the ground — which is still in flux — to what the United States should or shouldn’t do about it.

The Washington Post weighed in last night with a rather predictable criticism of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s first statement on the protests, and now Politico is channeling some of the complaints by outside observers who say that the administration should be speaking out more aggressively in support of the demonstrators.

My colleague Marc Lynch has already weighed in on this topic this morning, but here are my two cents: It’s not about us. Indeed, what’s been refreshing about the events in Tunisia and Egypt has been that very little of it has anything to do with the United States. For the most part, the demonstrators aren’t chanting anti-American slogans; they’re calling on their own corrupt, sclerotic rulers to stand aside. And that’s a very healthy phenomenon.

Instead of having Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama say some magic democracy words, I’d much rather see the United States think hard about its system of support for these autocrats. Can the U.S. credibly call for freedom in Egypt when it’s subsidizing the Egyptian military to the tune of a billion and a half dollars a year? Is Egypt really so helpful when it comes to the "peace process" between Israel and the Palestinians? Can we live with the Muslim Brotherhood in power, or closer to it? If the answer to these questions is the same as it’s been for the last few decades, it’s probably best to keep our big mouths shut.

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