January 30th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

Letters to the President #741 'The danger of choosing sides'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: The president is paying a lot of attention to the events in Egypt. So am I in today’s letter to the White House.

Dear Mr. President,

I keep thinking about Egypt this weekend, and I can’t help but be reminded of what I’ve always considered the central puzzle of diplomacy. We make deals with whomever is in charge in a given country; we build relationships; and as time passes…things change. Then one day we look across the waves to see fires burning and tanks rolling and we have to wonder: On which side of this conflict do we want to stand?

That’s was really the question in Egypt from the moment the trouble started. Should we stand with the ruling government so that, when and if the troubled subsided, they would feel reassured that we were always in their corner? Or should we lend support to the usurpers, so they would feel as if we had befriended them and encouraged their movement when the future was in doubt?

It’s a tough call, and I don’t envy you the task. Oh sure, it is easy for us normal citizens to say, “Just do the right thing,” or “We should support our long time ally,” or “Let’s help the protesters bring about change.” But those statements, amid the turmoil we are seeing, seem overly simplistic.

Think about Iran not so long ago. There too, protesters filled the streets, violence followed and it appeared that the government might be toppled. Iran’s bosses ultimately held on, but even if they had been driven out, a central question remained unanswered. We knew what the protesters were against; but what precisely were they for? That is something we’re not sure of in Egypt either. Heck, we’re not even certain who they are, or who is the prime organizing force, or even if there is one.

You no doubt will hear a lot of pressure to speak up more forcefully; to more clearly state a position. There may even come a time when you feel as if that is the right course. But be ever mindful that this is tricky territory. We most assuredly should do the right thing; but figuring out what is right…holds a million ways in which we can go wrong.

Best of luck.


soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Dr Moses

    SOS: A Cry for Help from Egypt to all People of Conscious
    To Obama and the Free World: Choose between Egyptian People or Mubarak's Regime...???
    "If you would like to know why the United States does not have credibility in the Middle East, that is precisely the answer. US Foreign Policy have another set of criteria for democracy in Middle East"..

    Mubarak plans bloody confrontation in few hours, he received 3 planes full of laser weapons from Israel directly to Cairo Airport today after USA refused.. He plans to use them from top of roofs to kill and scare demonstrations. ASK the World to STOP him NOW before it is too late...
    I ask you to stand by and defend human life, freedom against dictatorship, corruption, tyranny that has been controlling Egypt for 30 years.
    Please stand by human principals before we loose trust in human values and in you.

    January 31, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  2. Amir Habashy

    Claudia you will be surprised to know how many times US is mentioned in Egyptians daily lives.
    It is a tough decision Mr. President, and I don’t encourage public support of any sides, but I’m just curious to know what Moslem Brotherhood definition of freedom and democracy is?! Everyone talks freedom now but what is freedom, we did not have freedom or democracy and our rights as Copts were taken under a regime considered liberal and pro-western, can you tell me how it will look like under a regime that promotes itself under the slogan “Islam is the solution”

    January 31, 2011 at 9:55 am |
  3. Annie Kate

    It's up to the people of Egypt to decide what they want to happen in their country – its not up to us nor should our opinion matter. We were chose with the Revolutionary War and its aftermath what sort of society we wanted and we wouldn't have welcomed the interference of any other country in doing so – then or in later years (like during the Civil War). Hopefully, Egypt will be given the space and time to reconstitute their government and society in a manner more to their needs and liking.

    January 31, 2011 at 7:29 am |
  4. jim

    If diplomacy includes, nudging,encouraging,supporting, and influencing a country to conform to another's want and if leaders of countries are the principals. What happens when the citizen refute the requisition of their leadership. The will of people of a country must be, although verified,respected. To muddle in that sphere is testy.

    January 31, 2011 at 2:46 am |
  5. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    What's happening in Egypt is not about the U.S. it's about their people and their president.

    January 30, 2011 at 12:40 pm |