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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Go figure: As Arabs protest, Obama administration offers assertive support

From The Washington Post:

The Obama administration is openly supporting the anti-government demonstrations shaking the Arab Middle East, a stance that is far less tempered than the one the president has taken during past unrest in the region.

As demonstrations in Tunis, Cairo and Beirut have unfolded in recent days, President Obama and his senior envoys to the region have thrown U.S. support clearly behind the protesters, speaking daily in favor of free speech and assembly even when the protests target longtime U.S. allies such as Egypt.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday that "the Egyptian government has an important opportunity . . . to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people." She urged "the Egyptian authorities not to prevent peaceful protests or block communications, including on social media sites."

Asked whether the administration supports Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs replied only: "Egypt is a strong ally."

Administration officials say they will pursue a dual-track approach in the coming weeks, both speaking with civil activists in Egypt and meeting with officials to encourage reform in the bellwether Arab nation.

Such an approach comes with a degree of risk in the region, where democratic reforms have often empowered well-organized Islamist movements at odds with U.S. objectives. As a result, the United States has often favored the stability of authoritarian allies in the Middle East over the uncertainty of democratic change.

The administration's assertive stance contrasts sharply with Obama's approach during his first year in office, when he often tempered his advocacy of human rights and democracy with a large measure of pragmatism. His decision this time reflects the rising importance of those issues in his foreign policy goals.

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