Hillary Clinton keeps telling the president of Egypt not to use too much force against rioters trying to overthrow his government. Barack Obama seems to be saying the same thing. Isn't that the same advice the American Government gave the late Shah of Iran, the late Anastasio Somoza, and the late Nguyen Van Thieu, the late President of the Late Republic of Vietnam? (I'll leave the late Ian Smith of the late Republic of Rhodesia, and various late people in the Republic of South Africa—the people I've named were all (late) allies of the United States.)
If it turns out to be stupid advice will they give the President of Egypt asylum in America the way they specifically didn't for the Shah?
Can the President of Egypt, a nominal ally or, let us say, "client" of the United States be permitted to use as much force suppressing his revolutionaries as the United States used to suppress violence in Detroit in 1967? As pointed out recently in a Nicholas Stix blog, in 1967 the United States sent all kinds of troops to Detroit to restore order. Megan McArdle in the Atlantic has some discussion of the parallels. Here's an excerpt.
3.The moment of truth is almost always what the military does. This goes back to points one and two. If the military is willing to fire on protesters, the protesters will lose. If they aren't, then eventually, the head of the government is going to be told to find himself a plane and get out of the country.
4. Is there an outside power whose opinion the regime cares about? If so, that power may tell the head of state to take a hike. We may have done too good a job of isolating Iran and North Korea, here. Egypt, on the other hand, relies on the US for aid—those are your guns that will be fired at the protesters. So what the administration is saying to Mubarak in private probably will have some effect.If Mubarak does fall, what comes after him? Real, strong democratic institutions? Or another repressive regime of some description? Rioting can bring down a government, when the conditions are right. But it doesn't have a great track record at building good government afterward.[When Does Rioting Work?, January, 28 2011]
You may recall that restraining Somoza from being mean to the Russian-backed Sandinistas allowed them to establish a Russian-backed Marxist state in Nicaragua, and restraining the Shah from being mean to his fundamentalist Muslim enemies led to the government of the Ayatollah Khomeini. I don't know who's going to replace Mubarak if he listens to Hillary. But I have a feeling we're not going to like it.