Robert Satloff, the director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, posited a smart metric last week, after Hosni Mubarak refused to step down and President Obama seemed to urge him to do so. From my blog post:
Robert Satloff, WINEP’s director, gives the Obama administration high marks for its performance so far, particularly in its urging Mubarak to speed the transition:
"The imagery of Mubarak saying at 6, I’m going to say for eight more months and the president saying at 7, the transition needs to begin now –that’s the message people in the region will take away from the statement."
The downside is that the longer Mubarak resists, the worse for the United States:
"Every day that Mubarak stays in office is a rebuke to President Obama."
Satloff made the same point Wednesday in his testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee — although at that point, Satloff seemed to lean more toward "rebuke."
Obama was as blunt last night in his comments after Mubarak’s ambivalent relinquishing of power:
The Egyptian people have been told that there was a transition of authority, but it is not yet clear that this transition is immediate, meaningful or sufficient. Too many Egyptians remain unconvinced that the government is serious about a genuine transition to democracy, and it is the responsibility of the government to speak clearly to the Egyptian people and the world. The Egyptian government must put forward a credible, concrete and unequivocal path toward genuine democracy, and they have not yet seized that opportunity.
So here’s the question, not just to Satloff, but to all my readers (wake up, you at the back): Does Obama win the metric? Was his Feb. 1 call on Mubarak to launch the transition "now" too soon, too late, too blunt, too ambiguous?
Is this a net win for Obama?
More to the point, can he leverage it to preserve U.S. influence?