Where is all the Arab support that the U.S. said was necessary before we would take any action against Libya? All I see is Qatar listed in the coalition.
Shadi Hamid, Brookings Saban Center for Middle East Policy Fellow and Director of Research at the Brookings Doha Center, replies:
I have to say I find this fixation on Arab military support somewhat odd. When was the last time the Arab countries enforced a no-fly zone? That’s just not what they do. As I wrote in a recent piece in the New York Times, Arab regimes – because they are largely unpopular and authoritarian – have foreign policies’ oriented almost entirely around regime survival and protecting core interests. Many of them are putting down their own revolts as we speak. In short, they have little stomach for real involvement in a complex military operation. For both better and worse, there is no substitute – yet – for Western leadership. That said, there is Arab moral and political support for the intervention in Libya and that’s critical. The Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference all called for a no-fly zone well before the U.S. did. Perhaps more importantly, Arab public opinion is much more sympathetic to the operation in Libya than it was to the Iraq war in 2003. As revolts sweep the region, Arabs, by and large, want to see Libyans succeed just as Egyptians and Tunisians did and live in a free Libya. That said, many Arabs, even if they want Qaddafi out, retain a deep suspicion of the U.S. and wonder what its motivations are in intervening in Libya. That distrust is not going to go away anytime soon, which may mean that continued Arab support is not necessarily a sure thing if the West’s military involvement drags on without clear results.
No surprise that Brookings' Michael O'Hanlon would offer his take on Secretary Gates' analysis of the Pentagon's budget. But what is a surprise--no, odd-- is that he used the Tea Party to talk about it. In his Politico opinion piece today, "On defense, what tea party gets right," O'Hanlon invokes the Tea Party as those who serve as the model for forward and big picture thinking on the defense budget.
Right now, the nation is at war, the economy still needs major stimulus, and there is no consensus on cutting the rest of the federal budget. This is no moment for big reductions.
But in a broader sense, some members of the tea party — as well as some liberal Democrats — understand correctly that bigger questions await. Now is the time to begin using congressional hearings to air ideas about how the nation might, in the future, consider deeper cuts to its defense budget as part of an integrated program of fiscal reform and deficit reduction.
The budget radicals are right — our national debt predicament is dire. As Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has noted, the debt has begun to pose a direct threat to national security.
Shadi Hamid, Brookings Senior Fellow and Director of Research at the Doha Center, suggests that the sour outlook on the economic fallout from Egypt is completely warranted--and there's only one thing that will make it better.
Up until recently, Egypt was hailed as a success story by international financial institutions. In 2008, the World Bank's Doing Business report named Egypt the world's top reformer. The technocratic government of Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif oversaw annual GDP growth of 5% to 7%. By shutting out any opposition, the Egyptian regime promised political stability and delivered impressive growth. Uncertainty is the enemy of markets, and the Arab authoritarian order seemed, if nothing else, to offer a certain reliability. The past few days, that certainty has proven illusory. Egypt will not go back to what it was. In the coming weeks, the country's economic situation will deteriorate further. On Thursday, the main index of the Egyptian stock market dropped 10.5%. Meanwhile, tourists are fleeing Egypt, and they're not likely to come back anytime soon.
Before appearing on Meet the Press on Sunday (video below), Brookings VP and Director of Foreign Policy Martin Indyk gamed out Obama's scenarios on the show's website.
But here's the horrible dilemma that President Obama now finds himself in. If he distances the United States from Mubarak, he risks toppling a critically important Arab ally which could generate a tsunami of instability that could shake the foundations of all of America's autocratic Arab allies across the region. Yet if he does not distance the U.S. from the Egyptian pharaoh, he risks alienating the Egyptian people, helping to open the way to a theocratic regime that would be fundamentally anti-American.
At this point, facing by far the biggest foreign policy crisis of his presidency, Obama cannot afford to backtrack. Yesterday, he came out publicly on the side of the Egyptian people, insisting that Mubarak undertake significant reforms. But it is surely clear by now that the people will settle for nothing less than the removal of Mubarak. So Obama's options are narrowing. He will soon have to decide whether to tell Mubarak that the United States no longer supports him and that it's time for him to go.
Fortunately, Mubarak's appointment of Omar Suleiman, the head of Military Intelligence, as his vice president and successor, has made it more possible for Obama to pursue this option with less fear of the potential destabilizing consequences. The United States has a good deal of leverage on the Egyptian military because we have trained, equipped and paid for their armaments. They now hold the key to a positive resolution of this crisis. Mubarak may have appointed Suleiman to shore up military support for his presidency, but he is now dependent on the same military for his survival and they may be willing to abandon him to ensure their own.
That's the door on which Obama now needs to push. Suleiman needs to be encouraged to take over as Egypt's new president, order the military to prevent looting but not harm the demonstrators, and announce that he will only serve for six months until free and fair elections allow for a legitimate president to form a new government. If he can put this understanding in place, Obama then needs to call Mubarak and tell him gently but firmly that for the good of his country it's time for him to go.
Tea Party favorite Rand Paul (R-KY) competes with Michelle Bachmann for the most extreme budget-cutting proposal, but barely outdoes her with his suggestion to cut $500 billion from the 2011 fiscal year--a calendar that has only 8 months left in it.
How would he do it? By wiping out the Department of Energy and the Department of Education.
legislative branch -- 23%
federal courts -- 32%
Agriculture Department -- 30%
Commerce Department -- 54%
Health and Human Services -- 26%
Homeland Security -- 43%
Interior Department -- 78%
The legislation also lists programs for elimination. How about ... the Affordable Housing Program, the Commission on Fine Arts, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the State Justice Institute.
The general reaction is one of astonishment so far, including this one from Brookings' Isabel Sawhill.
"Oh my god. That's just crazy," said Isabel Sawhill, an economist who studies fiscal issues at the Brookings Institution. "Really that is wacko."