The U.S. and Egypt: A friendly status quo

After it was reported this morning that the United States intends to "release at least a portion of $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt," a Brookings Institute Panel this afternoon discussed the future of U.S.-Egypt relations. Shadi Hamid, the director of Research at the Brookings Doha Center, said he thinks this sends the wrong message given the  current the NGO crisis:

"I think it sends a very dangerous message that right now we're going to resume military aid even though Egypt is essentially waging war on civil society...There's a sense that the Obama administration will back down when push comes to shove, and the Egyptian military is right to think that because we are about to back down, and that sets a precedent for future governments...It sends the message that U.S. threats are hollow."

Hamid added that U.S. favorability ratings in Egypt during the Obama administration have been lower than under the last year of the Bush administration, and that the President's Cairo speech has changed nothing:

"Contrary to the perception that the Cairo speech brought about this new beginning, this new era in U.S.-Arab world relations in the region, that's not quite the way it worked out...The SCAF has in some ways manufactured this [NGO] crisis, but they're also tapping into something that's very much there in Egyptian society."

According to visiting fellow Khaled Elgindy, not much has changed on the Egyptian side either:

"All of what we've seen is actually less a shift in U.S.-Egypt relations than a deepening or acceleration of preexisting trends."

The turning point for the U.S.-Egypt relationship, notes Saban Center for Middle East Policy director Tamara Cofman Wittes, is on the horizon.

"It didn't come last year with the revolution itself, it's coming now as this transitional period comes to a close with the presidential elections and the anticipated handover of executive authority to a civilian government in June."

The U.S. is going soft, Egyptians have always disliked America, and bilateral relations are business as usual. Same old, same old.




This American Life retracts Apple story from China

Oops. Public radio show This American Life announced early today that they could no longer stand by an episode they broadcast in January featuring Mike Daisey, the author of a popular monologue about Apple supplier Foxconn in China. A Marketplace reporter (a show from the same family as This American Life) found that Daisey had fabricated a number of scenes with people claiming they had suffered from working for Foxconn. Ira Glass, host of This American Life, offers a stunningly direct mea culpa for the show; he says in hindsight they should have killed the story before broadcasting:

But other things Daisey told us about Apple’s operations in China checked out, and we saw no reason to doubt him. We didn’t think he was lying to us and to audiences about the details of the story. That was a mistake.”

In a blog post today, Daisey responded that he stands by his work, explaining that his show uses a “combination of fact, memoir, and dramatic license.” He adds, “What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism. For this reason, I regret that I allowed THIS AMERICAN LIFE to air an excerpt from my monologue.”

Kudos to Glass for issuing an apology for a story gone wrong, and taking charge of the narrative before anyone else really picked Daisey’s story apart. China is a maddeningly complex place to report, and one wonders if this will trigger other disclosures.


Update:  Mike Daisey had earlier excoriated tech journalists for committing the "terrible sin" of evading our "responsibilities.” Oy.