This week saw the Obama administration distance itself from a U.S. partner of 30 years, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, as street demonstrations transformed into street clashes between anti-government protesters and pro-government supporters in Cairo and other Egyptian cities. The consequence of nearly 30 years of ruling Egypt with an iron fist and over $1 billion in security assistance a year from the U.S., the revolution on the streets of Egypt appears to have taken Washington by surprise. Just last week, Vice-President Joe Biden stated that Mubarak was not a dictator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Sunday morning shows that the longstanding relationship was something the Americans were balancing closely with contemporary events.
By mid-week White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs bolstered Obama’s demand that “change must begin now,” more of a faint echo to Obama’s own presidential campaign of 2008 than it was reminiscent of the last time an American president issued an ultimatum to a dictator, by suggesting that “now means yesterday.” In between last week and this week, Foreign Policy ran a series of photo ops on its website entitled, “Everybody Loved Hosni,” an embarrassing photographic trail that should leave any dictator recipient of Western assistance nervous about the absence of true friendships in the cutthroat world of geopolitics.
The image below was taken on May 27, 2008 in Jericho in the West Bank. It shows a Palestinian Authority police training exercise at a desert base as officers train in riot control. Several Western observers were present as well as international media for the demonstration that was supported with European Union security assistance funds. While not quite as dramatic as the images emanating from Tahrir Square in Cairo, this image is far more reflective of the official face of the status quo, stability and order, as Western leaders and backers have sought to preserve it for 30 years in Egypt and elsewhere in the region for far longer.
More images from “Jericho Police Training,” May 27, 2008 on PhotoShelter.