Robert Gates, who just visited Egypt and from there stopped in Israel, has made a number of pointed but quite well thought-out statements regarding the current unprecedented upheavals in the Middle East. With regard to Syria, where dozens of demonstrators have been killed by Bashar Assad’s security forces, Gates said:
I would say that what the Syrian government is confronting is in fact the same challenge that faces so many governments across the region, and that is the unmet political and economic grievances of their people.
I’ve just come from Egypt, where the Egyptian army stood on the sidelines and allowed people to demonstrate and in fact empowered a revolution. The Syrians might take a lesson from that.
In Egypt, where there is concern that the only elements prepared for scheduled elections in September are the Muslim Brotherhood and the old guard National Democratic Party of Mubarak, Gates said this:
It is important to allow those new elements that have become active in Egyptian politics – some of them, for the first time – to have the time to develop political parties … so they can play the same kind of leading role in Egypt in the future that they played in bringing about this change in the first place.
He is exactly right in (1) stressing the necessity for a proper preparation for elections so that “democracy” in a majority Muslim country does not prove to be “one man, one vote, one time” and (2) cheering on this potential revolution against one of America’s genuine enemies: the Assad regime of Syria.
Of-course Robert Gates is not actually the president. He is the U.S. Secretary of Defense, appointed by George W. Bush in 2006.
It appears that President Barack Obama made no statement today about any of the historic shifts taking place in the Middle East, which present at the same time such enormous dangers and opportunities.