Fred Hiatt: Obama needs a freedom agenda he can believe in

Roundup: Media's Take

[Fred Hiatt is the editorial page editor of The Post.]

If the Obama administration had been following all along what Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton described as its policy here Saturday, U.S. officials might know more about the leaders of the extraordinary demonstrations in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

Instead, when it came to nurturing civil society in Egypt the past two years, Clinton's State Department deferred to President Hosni Mubarak. If he didn't want State funding certain groups, State didn't fund them. The result: The moderate, democratic center that Egypt needs at this crucial moment may be less developed and competent than it otherwise would be - and certainly is less familiar to U.S. policymakers.

For the Obama administration 1.0, Egypt mattered most for the help it could provide on Iran, Israel-Palestine, counterterrorism and nuclear nonproliferation. "Values" were a luxury, in a separate basket - something to push for, but only in so far as doing so didn't interfere with strategic interests...

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