Mark Perry writes:
It is commonplace for historians to compare revolutions to earthquakes, but the metaphor remains powerful. The Egyptian revolution is much like an earthquake: its epicenter may be Cairo, but its shockwaves have reached all the way to Washington. Since the first crowds began to appear in Tahrir Square, the Egyptian trembler has so shaken the U.S. that small but perceptible cracks have begun to appear in the foundations of America’s Middle East policies — and in the comity of opinion that has guided U.S. views of the region for 60 years. The changes were first evidenced last week, when policymakers, pundits and government officials made the rounds of the Sunday morning television news shows.
When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared on CNN, interviewer Candy Crowley was blunt: which side is the U.S. on — “Mubarak or the people in the streets?” she asked. Clinton laughed slightly, then rejected the question: “Well, there’s another choice, it’s the Egyptian people,” she said. “We are on the side, as we have been for more than 30 years, of a democratic Egypt that provides both political and economic rights of its people, that respects the universal human rights of all Egyptians.” Of course, Crowley knew (as we all knew) that if Clinton had been asked the same question just the week before, her answer would have been entirely different: that our friendship with Egypt is based on its peace treaty with Israel, its opposition to Iran and its hostility to political Islam.
The difference between the two answers is less a reflection of America’s Orwellian relationship with the truth (“we are on the side, as we have been for more than 30 years, of a democratic Egypt”), than it is of the Obama administration’s realization that a new constellation of leaders will soon take office in Cairo — and we’re going to have to deal with them, like it or not. Washington’s pro-Israel lobby is scrambling to reverse this view, because talking to a new set of leaders means talking to the Muslim Brotherhood — which might be bad for Israel. This was made clear on the same day that Hillary Clinton appeared on CNN.