Barack Obama’s much-anticipated speech has now come and gone, and those of us who had very low expectations for it were not disappointed.
Obama presented a distressingly familiar, neo-liberal plan for economic assistance for Egypt and Tunisia, complete with a request for an International Monetary Fund plan, which generally includes strict austerity measures, for strengthening the local economies. Debt forgiveness and loan guarantees for Egypt, totaling $2 billion, as well as private sector stimulation initiatives were promised, but it seems likely that the agenda here is to re-establish American influence through economic controls.
Still, one shouldn’t entirely dismiss these measures—Tunisia and especially Egypt do indeed need economic help, and the measures announced will help, both in terms of debt reduction and in terms of stimulating the private sector.
But what was most important regarding the Arab Spring was what was not said.
While Obama criticized Bahrain and Yemen for their violent responses to protests, no action will be taken. And there was no mention at all of Saudi Arabia, an extremely repressive government that has squashed any hint of protest in its own country and helped Bahrain in their crackdown as well. Continue reading