Sunday, January 30, 2011

Beware Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood

As Washington reviews its policy toward Cairo this weekend, officials should think hard about fostering a Mubarak-led transition rather than one led by protesters. Plus, full coverage of the uprising in Egypt.

Difficult as it may be, let's try for an honest and realistic discussion of Egypt. Of course, the Obama administration, most Americans, most Egyptians, and I myself would prefer a democratic government in Cairo instead of President Mubarak's corrupt and repressive establishment. That's not the issue. The real issue is this: If Mubarak tumbles and if Washington uses its influence—and yes, it does have influence at approximately $3 billion in annual total aid—to push him out, what kind of government will follow his? Will it be even less democratic and more repressive? And what will be the implications for U.S. security in the region?

So, let's stop prancing around and proclaiming our devotion to peace, "universal rights" and people power. Instead, let's step back and look hard at what we know and don't know about this popular explosion in the bosom of one of America's most vital allies—and what the United States can and can't do about it.

The devil we know is President Mubarak. In the history of Mideast bad guys, he's far from the worst. Remember Saddam Hussein, Ayatollah Khomenei, President Ahmadinejad, President Assad of Syria, and the many and varied leaders of Muslim terrorist groups? No sensible American would excuse Mubarak's corrupt regime—a bureaucracy that would make Kafka blush, a nasty police force, and a repressive political system. Very bad, indeed. On the plus side, he's led Egypt's economy to 6 to 7 percent real growth in past years and has conducted a foreign policy highly supportive of U.S. interests.

Most seriously, he failed to institute gradual political and economic reforms. Consequently, his nation is in flames. U.S. administrations haven't been successful in the past when they tried to push Mubarak in this direction. But it stands to reason that he might now be more amenable to reforms and transitions as long as he is not humiliated.

Now, what about the devils we know less—like the protesters? Of course, there's a slew of journalists, pundits, policy experts and professors who say these aren't devils at all, just "the people": democrats, lawyers, and college-educated and moderate women. No doubt, many of the protesters fit that description. But the dutiful press has interviewed only, say, a few hundred of these good souls. Perhaps many are not so democratic. Perhaps many are Egyptian Tea Partiers who want every Egyptian to have Islamic guns like the Founding Pharaohs. Or perhaps many are just furious and poor and unknowledgeable. My guess is no one really knows a great deal about the protesters.

It would be delusory to take the MB's democratic protestations at face value. Look at who their friends are—like Hamas.

As for most of the other "devils," they are pretty well known. One leadership candidate, of course, is Mohamed ElBaradei, the former U.N. chief nuclear inspector and a good man. But he has almost no constituency inside Egypt, where he's spent little time in recent years. The people aren't going to give him power, and he probably wouldn't know what to do with it anyway. But he could be part of a future government in an ideal world.

The other "devil," now being proclaimed as misunderstood Islamic democrats, is the Muslim Brotherhood, and they should give us great pause. Baloney and wishful thinking aside, the MB would be calamitous for U.S. security. What's more, their current defenders don't really argue that point, as much as they seem to dismiss it as not important or something we can live with. The MB supports Hamas and other terrorist groups, makes friendly noises to Iranian dictators and torturers, would be uncertain landlords of the critical Suez Canal, and opposes the Egyptian-Israeli agreement of 1979, widely regarded as the foundation of peace in the Mideast. Above all, the MB would endanger counterterrorism efforts in the region and worldwide. That is a very big deal.

As for the MB's domestic democratic credentials, let me show some restraint here. To begin with, no one really has any sound idea of how they might rule; they haven't gotten close enough to power to fully judge. But they'd be bad for non-orthodox Islamic women.

And while MB leaders profess support for democracy and free speech, my mother's response still holds: "They would say that, wouldn't they?" What I see is that they've quieted their usual inflammatory rhetoric in return for Mubarak not banning them. It would be delusory to take the MB's democratic protestations at face value. Look at who their friends are—like Hamas.

The real danger is that our experts, pundits and professors will talk the Arab and American worlds into believing we can all trust the MB. And that's dangerous because, outside of the government, the MB is the only organized political force, the only group capable of taking power. And if they do gain control, it's going to be almost impossible for the people to take it back. Just look at Iran.

For the record, I am not saying that Arabs or Muslims are incapable of democracy. I am most certainly saying that Arabs, Muslims, or anyone else would find it almost impossible to establish a stable democracy out of chaos and years of corruption and injustice.

The Egyptian Army is another power alternative. And it's possible they could provide a bridge to a future civilian democratic government in Cairo. All we know here is that they've kept their noses out of politics and are thought to be generally loyal to Mubarak. The United States could help persuade the parties—if asked to play that role by the military, Mubarak officials, and "the people."

Now, a final word about America's power in this situation. We haven't got any power to shape events. But that does not mean we are without influence. We have influence by virtue of the billions in aid we provide annually, by dint of years of positive contacts with the Egyptian government and business people, and the like. This means something. If the Obama administration leans to the protesters, that would embolden the protesters and demoralize Mubarak supporters. And mind you, those Americans screaming to support "the people" should understand that no matter how much President Obama sides with "the people," few of them will thank him or America for it. And our soothsayers should also understand that when our other Arab friends watch us help remove Mubarak from power by not backing him, they'll believe that they'll be next on the list if they run into trouble. U.S. power would crumble in the region.

In these circumstances, the least problematic of U.S. policies are as follows:

1. Call on all sides to restore order and stability—with as much restraint on government force as possible. Little or nothing can get done if the killings mount. Under present circumstances, Mubarak won't compromise, and if he did, "the people" would only demand more. And everything would fly out of control again. The Army is best positioned to do what's necessary here, including using minimum necessary force.

2. Shut up publicly as much as possible and use American influence privately to guide Mubarak toward a power transition "he could be proud of." He can't stay in office for long, but he can go in a way that befits a strong ally and allows for a legacy he can be proud of. (And by the way, the White House should also stop threatening publicly to cut off aid to his government. Make such points in private.)

3. Bring in Egyptian voices and others respected by them to speak truth to the people. Tell them it will take years to fix Egypt's mountain of problems. Urge them to say that the start would be a coalition government with Mubarak as president for as short a period as possible and no more than a year, followed by elections supervised by the United Nations.

After a daylong meeting on Saturday, the White House decided to lean in this direction—i.e., away from the protesters and toward Mubarak. But according to officials, Obama will not be saying so explicitly.

Our foremost fear should be an abrupt change of power or chaos that will benefit only extremists. Our foremost worry should be self-delusion.

Obama pulls away from Mubarak

The Obama administration Saturday continued inching away from the besieged government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as observers in Washington and Cairo began to conclude that the autocrat has little chance of restoring his authority.

Key American officials spent Saturday morning in a two-hour meeting and another hour briefing President Barack Obama that afternoon.

Obama “reiterated our focus on opposing violence and calling for restraint; supporting universal rights and supporting concrete steps that advance political reform within Egypt,” according to a White House description of the later meeting.

But in terms of officials words on the spiraling crisis — one that holds enormous stakes for U.S. foreign policy — administration officials spoke only in a Twittered whisper, allowing Obama’s Friday night call on Mubarak to move swiftly toward political reform to set the tone.

“The people of Egypt no longer accept the status quo. They are looking to their government for a meaningful process to foster real reform,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley wrote Saturday morning. “The Egyptian government can’t reshuffle the deck and then stand pat. President Mubarak’s words pledging reform must be followed by action.”

Obama’s pressure on Mubarak and the fact that defenses of Mubarak and the “stability” he brings the region from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden earlier in the week haven’t been repeated, have led many observers to conclude that the administration is readying for the end of the Mubarak era.

Foreign policy scholar Robert Kagan, who co-chairs the bipartisan Egypt working group that has been urging the administration to prepare for the post-Mubarak era, said he welcomed Obama’s comments, which came after the president spoke with Mubarak Friday night.

“They’re not as on the fence as people think,” Kagan, of the Brookings Institution, said by e-mail Saturday, referring to the U.S. administration. “I think the administration knows there has to be some kind of transition soon.”

That transition appears decreasingly likely to be Mubarak’s son Gamal, whom the BBC reported had arrived with his brother in the United Kingdom, a report Egyptian state television denied. (A State Department official said Saturday he did not know whether the report was true, but noted that similar rumors have been flying for days.) And Mubarak struggled to signal change Saturday without giving into protesters’ demands that he step down, appointing Egyptian intelligence chief Gen. Omar Suleiman as his vice president.

The appointment of the veteran Egyptian security official and Mubarak confidant who has dealt extensively with Washington on the peace process, counter-terrorism, and other security matters, came hours after Mubarak announced overnight that he would dissolve his cabinet and implement political and economic reforms.

The appointment of Suleiman, a Mubarak confidant and foe of Islamic radicals who has a strong working rapport with Washington as well as Israel and other Middle East capitals, could suggest a potential transition figure and bulwark against instability as Mubarak’s exit is envisioned, from Washington’s perspective. But Egyptian protesters are unlikely to be appeased by the appointment, Washington Egypt experts said, given his close association with the Mubarak regime and the human rights abuses and torture perpetrated by Egypt’s security apparatus.

“I doubt that Suleiman will be acceptable as vice president, and therefore heir apparent to the presidency, to the protestors,” said the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Michele Dunne, a former U.S. official who co-chairs the Egypt working group with Kagan. “He is closely linked to Mubarak and, as head of intelligence, linked to human rights abuses over the years.”

“The message [of Suleiman’s appointment] is intended to be, even if Mubarak goes, the system remains,” said Jon Alterman, an Egypt expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

On the ground, looters and criminals appeared at times to be filling the vacuum that police, beaten back by protesters, had left. The Associated Press reported that 74 people have died since the anti-government protests began five days ago. The Egyptian Army fanned out across Cairo to guard government buildings and historical sites like the Egyptian Museum, where looters ripped the heads off two mummies and damaged a handful of small artifacts before being caught by soldiers, according to the country’s antiquities chief.

And even as the chaos raged, the Washington consensus that Mubarak’s days are numbered was hardening.

“It’s hard to imagine Mubarak is president in a year,” said Alterman.

“This is the E-N-D,” Council on Foreign Relations Egypt specialist Steven Cook wrote Saturday. “Unless the military is willing to enforce martial law/spill blood, it’s hard to see how Hosni and Omar … hang [on].”

A transition, though, could be unstable and uncertain, and a key American strategic relationship remains in flux, with the path forward utterly unclear.

One top dissident, international diplomat and nuclear expert Mohamed El Baradei, said he found Obama’s remarks “disappointing” — an early mark that the next Egyptian regime may have political reasons to position itself against the U.S. where Mubarak did not.

“The only way out for Mubarak is to allow free and fair, competitive elections, including inviting international monitors to come in,” said Kagan. “And right away, because they have to monitor months of campaigning leading up to the elections.”

“If Mubarak announced this right away, it could prevent him from being toppled,” Kagan said. “It is possible that Egyptians would still want Mubarak out even if he made these concessions, but I think it could work.”

The Associated Press

Black? White? Asian? More Young Americans Choose All of the Above

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — In another time or place, the game of “What Are You?” that was played one night last fall at the University of Maryland might have been mean, or menacing: Laura Wood’s peers were picking apart her every feature in an effort to guess her race.

“How many mixtures do you have?” one young man asked above the chatter of about 50 students. With her tan skin and curly brown hair, Ms. Wood’s ancestry could have spanned the globe.

“I’m mixed with two things,” she said politely.

“Are you mulatto?” asked Paul Skym, another student, using a word once tinged with shame that is enjoying a comeback in some young circles. When Ms. Wood confirmed that she is indeed black and white, Mr. Skym, who is Asian and white, boasted, “Now that’s what I’m talking about!” in affirmation of their mutual mixed lineage.

Then the group of friends — formally, the Multiracial and Biracial Student Association — erupted into laughter and cheers, a routine show of their mixed-race pride.

The crop of students moving through college right now includes the largest group of mixed-race people ever to come of age in the United States, and they are only the vanguard: the country is in the midst of a demographic shift driven by immigration and intermarriage.

One in seven new marriages is between spouses of different races or ethnicities, according to data from 2008 and 2009 that was analyzed by the Pew Research Center. Multiracial and multiethnic Americans (usually grouped together as “mixed race”) are one of the country’s fastest-growing demographic groups. And experts expect the racial results of the 2010 census, which will start to be released next month, to show the trend continuing or accelerating.

Many young adults of mixed backgrounds are rejecting the color lines that have defined Americans for generations in favor of a much more fluid sense of identity. Ask Michelle López-Mullins, a 20-year-old junior and the president of the Multiracial and Biracial Student Association, how she marks her race on forms like the census, and she says, “It depends on the day, and it depends on the options.”

They are also using the strength in their growing numbers to affirm roots that were once portrayed as tragic or pitiable.

“I think it’s really important to acknowledge who you are and everything that makes you that,” said Ms. Wood, the 19-year-old vice president of the group. “If someone tries to call me black I say, ‘yes — and white.’ People have the right not to acknowledge everything, but don’t do it because society tells you that you can’t.”

No one knows quite how the growth of the multiracial population will change the country. Optimists say the blending of the races is a step toward transcending race, to a place where America is free of bigotry, prejudice and programs like affirmative action.

Pessimists say that a more powerful multiracial movement will lead to more stratification and come at the expense of the number and influence of other minority groups, particularly African-Americans.

And some sociologists say that grouping all multiracial people together glosses over differences in circumstances between someone who is, say, black and Latino, and someone who is Asian and white. (Among interracial couples, white-Asian pairings tend to be better educated and have higher incomes, according to Reynolds Farley, a professor emeritus at the University of Michigan.)

Along those lines, it is telling that the rates of intermarriage are lowest between blacks and whites, indicative of the enduring economic and social distance between them.

Prof. Rainier Spencer, director of the Afro-American Studies Program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and the author of “Reproducing Race: The Paradox of Generation Mix,” says he believes that there is too much “emotional investment” in the notion of multiracialism as a panacea for the nation’s age-old divisions. “The mixed-race identity is not a transcendence of race, it’s a new tribe,” he said. “A new Balkanization of race.”

But for many of the University of Maryland students, that is not the point. They are asserting their freedom to identify as they choose.

“All society is trying to tear you apart and make you pick a side,” Ms. Wood said. “I want us to have a say.”

The Way We Were

Americans mostly think of themselves in singular racial terms. Witness President Obama’s answer to the race question on the 2010 census: Although his mother was white and his father was black, Mr. Obama checked only one box, black, even though he could have checked both races.

Some proportion of the country’s population has been mixed-race since the first white settlers had children with Native Americans. What has changed is how mixed-race Americans are defined and counted.

Long ago, the nation saw itself in more hues than black and white: the 1890 census included categories for racial mixtures such as quadroon (one-fourth black) and octoroon (one-eighth black). With the exception of one survey from 1850 to 1920, the census included a mulatto category, which was for people who had any perceptible trace of African blood.

But by the 1930 census, terms for mixed-race people had all disappeared, replaced by the so-called one-drop rule, an antebellum convention that held that anyone with a trace of African ancestry was only black. (Similarly, people who were “white and Indian” were generally to be counted as Indian.)

It was the census enumerator who decided.

By the 1970s, Americans were expected to designate themselves as members of one officially recognized racial group: black, white, American Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Hawaiian, Korean or “other,” an option used frequently by people of Hispanic origin. (The census recognizes Hispanic as an ethnicity, not a race.)

Starting with the 2000 census, Americans were allowed to mark one or more races.

The multiracial option came after years of complaints and lobbying, mostly by the white mothers of biracial children who objected to their children being allowed to check only one race. In 2000, seven million people — about 2.4 percent of the population — reported being more than one race.

According to estimates from the Census Bureau, the mixed-race population has grown by roughly 35 percent since 2000.

And many researchers think the census and other surveys undercount the mixed population.

The 2010 mixed-race statistics will be released, state by state, over the first half of the year.

“There could be some big surprises,” said Jeffrey S. Passel, a senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center, meaning that the number of mixed-race Americans could be high. “There’s not only less stigma to being in these groups, there’s even positive cachet.”

Moving Forward

The faces of mixed-race America are not just on college campuses. They are in politics, business and sports. And the ethnically ambiguous are especially ubiquitous in movies, television shows and advertising. There are news, social networking and dating Web sites focusing on the mixed-race audience, and even consumer products like shampoo. There are mixed-race film festivals and conferences. And student groups like the one at Maryland, offering peer support and activism, are more common.

Such a club would not have existed a generation ago — when the question at the center of the “What Are You?” game would have been a provocation rather than an icebreaker.

“It’s kind of a taking-back in a way, taking the reins,” Ms. López-Mullins said. “We don’t always have to let it get us down,” she added, referring to the question multiracial people have heard for generations.

“The No. 1 reason why we exist is to give people who feel like they don’t want to choose a side, that don’t want to label themselves based on other people’s interpretations of who they are, to give them a place, that safe space,” she said. Ms. López-Mullins is Chinese and Peruvian on one side, and white and American Indian on the other.

That safe space did not exist amid the neo-Classical style buildings of the campus when Warren Kelley enrolled in 1974. Though his mother is Japanese and his father is African-American, he had basically one choice when it came to his racial identity. “I was black and proud to be black,” Dr. Kelley said. “There was no notion that I might be multiracial. Or that the public discourse on college campuses recognized the multiracial community.”

Almost 40 years later, Dr. Kelley is the assistant vice president for student affairs at the university and faculty adviser to the multiracial club, and he is often in awe of the change on this campus.

When the multiracial group was founded in 2002, Dr. Kelley said, “There was an instant audience.”

They did not just want to hold parties. The group sponsored an annual weeklong program of discussions intended to raise awareness of multiracial identities — called Mixed Madness — and conceived a new class on the experience of mixed-race Asian-Americans that was made part of the curriculum last year.

“Even if someone had formed a mixed-race group in the ’70s, would I have joined?” Dr. Kelley said. “I don’t know. My multiracial identity wasn’t prominent at the time. I don’t think I even conceptualized the idea.”

By the 2000 census, Dr. Kelley’s notion of his racial identity had evolved to include his mother’s Asian heritage; he modified his race officially on the form. After a lifetime of checking black, he checked Asian and black.

(Dr. Kelley’s mother was born in Kyoto. She met her future husband, a black soldier from Alabama, while he was serving in the Pacific during World War II.)

Checking both races was not an easy choice, Dr. Kelley said, “as a black man, with all that means in terms of pride in that heritage as well as reasons to give back and be part of progress forward.”

“As I moved into adulthood and got a professional job, I started to respect my parents more and see the amount of my mom’s culture that’s reflected in me,” he said. “Society itself also moved.”

Finding Camaraderie

In fall 2009, a question tugged at Sabrina Garcia, then a freshman at Maryland, a public university with 26,500 undergraduates: “Where will I fit in?” recalled Ms. Garcia, who is Palestinian and Salvadoran.

“I considered the Latina student union, but I’m only half,” she said. “I didn’t want to feel like I was hiding any part of me. I went to an M.B.S.A. meeting and it was really great. I really feel like part of a group that understands.”

The group holds weekly meetings, in addition to hosting movie nights, dinners, parties and, occasionally, posts broadcasts on YouTube.

Not all of its 100 or so members consider themselves mixed race, and the club welcomes everyone.

At a meeting in the fall, David Banda, who is Hispanic, and Julicia Coleman, who is black, came just to unwind among supportive listeners. They discussed the frustrations of being an interracial couple, even today, especially back in their hometown, Upper Marlboro, Md.

“When we go back home, let’s say for a weekend or to the mall, they see us walking and I get this look, you know, sort of giving me the idea: ‘Why are you with her? You’re not black, so she should be with a black person.’ Or comments,” Mr. Banda, 20, said at a meeting of the group. “Even some of my friends tell me, ‘Why don’t you date a Hispanic girl?’ ”

Mr. Banda and Ms. Coleman are thinking about having children someday. “One of the main reasons I joined is to see the struggles mixed people go through,” he said, “so we can be prepared when that time comes.”

And despite the growth of the mixed-race population, there are struggles.

Ian Winchester, a junior who is part Ghanaian, part Scottish-Norwegian, said he felt lucky and torn being biracial. His Scottish grandfather was keen on dressing him in kilts as a boy. The other side of the family would put him in a dashiki. “I do feel empowered being biracial,” he said. “The ability to question your identity — identity in general — is really a gift.”

But, he continued, “I don’t even like to identify myself as a race anymore. My family has been pulling me in two directions about what I am. I just want to be a person.”

Similarly, Ms. López-Mullins sees herself largely in nonracial terms.

“I hadn’t even learned the word ‘Hispanic’ until I came home from school one day and asked my dad what I should refer to him as, to express what I am,” she said. “Growing up with my parents, I never thought we were different from any other family.”

But it was not long before Ms. López-Mullins came to detest what was the most common question put to her in grade school, even from friends. “What are you?” they asked, and “Where are you from?” They were fascinated by her father, a Latino with Asian roots, and her mother with the long blond hair, who was mostly European in ancestry, although mixed with some Cherokee and Shawnee.

“I was always having to explain where my parents are from because just saying ‘I’m from Takoma Park, Maryland,’ was not enough,” she said. “Saying ‘I’m an American’ wasn’t enough.”

“Now when people ask what I am, I say, ‘How much time do you have?’ ” she said. “Race will not automatically tell you my story.”

What box does she check on forms like the census? “Hispanic, white, Asian American, Native American,” she said. “I’m pretty much checking everything.”

At one meeting of the Multiracial and Biracial Student Association, Ms. Wood shared a story about surprises and coming to terms with them. “Until I was 8 years old, I thought I was white,” she told the group. “My mother and aunt sat me down and said the guy I’d been calling Dad was not my father. I started crying. And she said, ‘Your real father is black.’ ”

Ms. Wood’s mother, Catherine Bandele, who is white, and her biological father split up before she was born. Facing economic troubles and resistance from her family about raising a mixed-race child, Ms. Bandele gave her daughter up for adoption to a couple who had requested a biracial baby. But after two weeks, she changed her mind. “I had to fight to get her back, but I got her,” Ms. Bandele said. “And we’re so proud of Laura.”

Eventually Ms. Wood’s closest relatives softened, embracing her.

But more distant relatives never came around. “They can’t see past the color of my skin and accept me even though I share DNA with them,” she said. “It hurts a lot because I don’t even know my father’s side of the family.”

Ms. Wood has searched the Internet for her father, to no avail.

“Being in M.B.S.A., it really helps with that,” she said. “Finding a group of people who can accept you for who you are and being able to accept yourself, to just be able to look in the mirror and say, ‘I’m O.K. just the way I am!’ — honestly, I feel that it’s a blessing.”

“It took a long time,” she said.

Now Ms. Wood is one of the group’s foremost advocates.

Over dinner with Ms. López-Mullins one night, she wondered: “What if Obama had checked white? There would have been an uproar because he’s the first ‘black president,’ even though he’s mixed. I would like to have a conversation with him about why he did that.”

Absent that opportunity, Ms. Wood took her concerns about what Mr. Obama checked to a meeting of the campus chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. last year. Vicky Key, a past president of the Multiracial and Biracial Student Association, who is Greek and black, joined her. The question for discussion was whether Mr. Obama is the first black president or the first multiracial president.

Ms. Key, a senior, remembered someone answering the question without much discussion: “One-drop rule, he’s black.”

“But we were like, ‘Wait!’ ” she said. “That’s offensive to us. We sat there and tried to advocate, but they said, ‘No, he’s black and that’s it.’ Then someone said, ‘Stop taking away our black president.’ I didn’t understand where they were coming from, and they didn’t understand me.”

Whether Mr. Obama is considered black or multiracial, there is a wider debate among mixed-race people about what the long-term goals of their advocacy should be, both on campus and off.

“I don’t want a color-blind society at all,” Ms. Wood said. “I just want both my races to be acknowledged.”

Ms. López-Mullins countered, “I want mine not to matter.”

Man Arrested With Explosives at Michigan Mosque

DETROIT (AP) — A 63-year-old Southern California man who was traveling with explosives in his vehicle with the intention of blowing up one of the nation's largest mosques where mourners had gathered for a funeral was arrested in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Michigan authorities said Sunday.

Dearborn police said Roger Stockham was arraigned Wednesday on one count of making a false report or threat of terrorism and one count of possessing explosives with an unlawful intent. Stockham had a large but undisclosed quantity of class-C fireworks including M-80s, which are outlawed in Michigan, Chief Ronald Haddad said.

"I was comfortable with the fact that we had taken him off the street — he isn't going anywhere," Haddad told The Associated Press Sunday afternoon. "I think the society he wanted to impact is safe."

Haddad said Stockham was arrested Monday evening without incident in the parking lot of Islamic Center of America, while a large group was gathered inside. He said police received a 911 call from a resident.

Haddad said authorities believe Stockham was acting alone but still take him "very seriously." He said Stockham has "a long history of anti-government activities," though he declined to elaborate.

The chief said he called the mosque leader, Imam Hassan al-Qazwini, early Tuesday to let him know of the arrest, and later met with Qazwini and mosque board members. He said members shared concerns about copycat crimes if the arrest was publicized, and Haddad said he understood.

"We never want to put something out there that gives someone the 'how-to,'" Haddad said.

Qazwini informed worshippers about the incident during his sermon on Friday. The Council on American-Islamic Relations' Michigan chapter issued a news release Saturday night and the police followed Sunday morning.

Stockham remained jailed Sunday on a $500,000 bond. A preliminary examination is scheduled for Friday.

Police didn't know whether Stockham had an attorney. A public records search did not turn up a listed number for Stockham, though Haddad said he lives in Imperial Beach, near San Diego.

Dearborn, located about 10 miles west of Detroit, is the capital of the Detroit area's Arab-American community, which is one of the largest in the U.S.


McConnell: 'Look, we need to get serious about this'
Clinton declined to repeat her statement from earlier this week that the Egyptian government is "stable." She also declined to say that the United States wants Mubarak to stay in power.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called Egypt an "extraordinarily important ally" and said Republicans and Democrats need to approach the situation with a united front.

McConnell also urged President Obama to be more bold about cutting entitlement spending, which is generally a tough political sell. "We know social security's in trouble. ... We know Medicare's on an unsustainable path," McConnell said. "Look, we need to get serious about this.

Clinton: 'We're not advocating any specific outcome'
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton continued making the rounds on the Sunday shows to discuss the fast-evolving situation in Egypt. "This is a complex, very difficult situation," said Clinton, "We do not want to send any message about backing forward or backing back."

Asked whether Mubarak could survive the uprising, Clinton did not commit either way, saying it would be up to the Egyptian people. "We're not advocating any specific outcome, we are advocating that the government the representatives of the civil society, the political opposition...begin a dialog to chart a course," Clinton said.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) provided their take on the situation in Egypt as well. "We cannot afford a Tiananmen Square in Cairo," said McCain. "This is a narrow window of opportunity." McCain went on to provide an overall positive assessment of the president's response, but said he could have gone further by proposing a roadmap for resolving the situation in Egypt.

"I basically agree with the thrust of Sen. McCain," said Schumer, going on to say that McCain's position almost entirely coincided with that of the president.

On the subject of domestic policy and the debt ceiling, Schumer said there was a more important issue on the table: continuing funding for the U.S. government, "It is playing with fire to risk the shutting down of the government."

Boehner: Obama has handled 'this tense situation pretty well'
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said no one is satisfied with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's efforts to protect human rights. "There is a long way to go," Clinton said, stressing that the United States wants an "orderly transition" to democracy in the country, which has been thrown into chaos as demonstrators protest.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the Obama Administration has handled "this tense situation pretty well."

Boehner criticized President Obama's State of the Union speech, saying the president was calling for more stimulus spending. Boehner said Republicans are only interested in making cuts, adding that there is "no limit to the amount of spending that we're willing to cut."

Boehner also said that he didn't think having security at Rep. Gabrielle Giffords's (D-Ariz.) townhall earlier this month would have prevented the shootings that occurred.

Clinton: 'I'm not going to speculate'
Secretary Clinton continued her rounds on the Sunday shows to describe the United States' response to the uprising in Egypt. Asked whether Mubarak will have to leave, Clinton said, "I'm not going to speculate. ... This is an incredibly complex set of circumstances and we are hoping and praying that the authorities will be able to respond to the legitimate request for participation by the peaceful protesters."

Egyptian opposition leader Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei also joined by phone, calling on Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to leave immediately. "He absolutely has to leave. This is not me, it is 85 million Egyptians." Reuters reported earlier Sunday that the Islamic Brotherhood has placed its support behind ElBaradei.

"This is a farce," he said referring to Mubarak's dissolution of his cabinet. "You have to stop the life support to the dictator," he said.

Newly-appointed White House Chief of Staff William Daley weighed in on the recent vote in the House to repeal the health-care law. "People have suggestions on how to make it better," said Daley, "but [president Obama] is not interested in re-fighting this fight."

It was Daley's first televised interview since being appointed Whilte House chief of staff.

Asked whether President Obama would be willing to raise the gas tax, Daley repeated a popular Republican refrain saying, "I don't think raising taxes on the American people is the way to go."

Clinton: 'We've been very clear about what is in Egypt's long-term interest'
Clinton said the United States is not discussing the possibility of cutting of aid to Egypt. She noted that Egypt has been an important partner for the U.S. in many respects for decades, but said the U.S. has always pushed for reforms during that time. "We've been very clear about what is in Egypt's long-term interest, and we continue to be clear."

Egypt's Ambassador to the United States, Sameh Shoukry, promised "speedier reforms" in light of the protests. "That, I'm sure, is the direction that Egypt will take within the institutions that are still in operation that are cognizant of (what's happening) on the streets."

Egyptian opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei said Mubarak needs to leave office in order to make way for democracy. He said he doesn't think the army will turn on the protesters, because the army is generally on the people's side. He also discounted the idea that a replacement government might be hostile to the United States or an Islamic fundamentalist group like the Muslim Brotherhood would take over. "This is what the regime sold to the U.S.; it's either us (and) repression or Al Qaeda-type Islamists," ElBaradei said. "That's not ... Egypt."

McHenry - 'no program is going to help you as much as a job can help you'
Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), chairman of the Subcommittee on TARP, Financial Services and Bailouts of Public and Private Programs, discussed the fallout from the recently-released Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission report. McHenry fielded questions from Congressional Quarterly's Steven Sloan and the Washington Post's Neil Irwin.

Asked whether he would like to re-litigate the bank bailout, McHenry declined. "I've had my ask those questions," he said, "I think people have pretty well made up their minds." McHenry went on to say that the reason most Americans cannot keep their homes is the "economic situation," more so than any government program. McHenry did not provide any specific policy solution when asked for one, saying foreclosures were due in large part to individuals having lost their jobs, not policy decisions. "It's an awful thing to say ... but if you don't have a job, no program is going to help you as much as a job can help you," said McHenry.

By Aaron Blake & Emi Kolawole

U.S. Offers Evacuation Flights as Mubarak Clings to Power

CAIRO — As President Hosni Mubarak struggled to maintain a tenuous hold on power and the Egyptian military reinforced strategic points in the capital, the United States said on Sunday it was offering evacuation flights for its citizens and urged all Americans currently in Egypt to “consider leaving as soon as they can safely do so.”

The announcement injected a stronger note of growing alarm among Egypt’s allies as an uprising against Mr. Mubarak’s almost three decades in power entered a sixth day, fraught with uncertainty about its outcome. Police have largely withdrawn from the country’s major cities and the military has done little so far to hold back tens of thousands of demonstrators defying a curfew to call for an end to Mr. Mubarak’s rule..

On Sunday, Turkey, a major regional player, said it was sending three flights to evacuate 750 of its citizens from Cairo and Alexandria, one day after Israel flew back the families of its diplomats in Egypt on Saturday aboard special flight that also carried about 40 Israeli citizens in Egypt on private business.

France, Britain and Germany issued a rare joint statement urging President Mubarak and the protesters to show restraint. But, like President Obama, they did not call for the ouster of an autocratic leader who has cast himself as a linchpin of Western diplomatic and security interests in the Middle East.

In a statement, the American Embassy here said it was telling “U.S. citizens in Egypt who wish to depart that the Department of State is making arrangements to provide transportation to safehaven locations in Europe.” About 90,000 Americans live and work in Egypt.

“Flights to evacuation points will begin departing Egypt on Monday, Jan. 31,” the statement said, adding that the Obama administration had authorized the “voluntary repatriation” of American citizens including diplomats’ dependents and some employees not dealing with emergencies, meaning they could choose to leave if they wished.

With the situation on the ground still fluid, soldiers appeared to have thrown up new roadblocks, turning back cars as thousands of Egyptians on foot filtered back into the city center following the end of the overnight curfew. Before dawn, around 50 tanks and other armored vehicles rolled into the upmarket suburb of Heliopolis, near the airport and close to President Mubarak’s home, and there seemed to be a renewed effort to tighten controls on the flow of news.

In another part of Cairo, witnesses reported seeing around 100 tanks and armored personnel carriers gathered for deployment in the same parade ground where the former President Anwar al-Sadat, who made the Camp David peace agreement with Israel in 1979, was assassinated in 1981. At that time, Mr. Mubarak was vice president and the killing of Mr. Sadat propelled him into a position he has never left, steadfastly refusing to name a successor.

In the central Tahrir, or Independence, Square — which has become an epicenter of protest — the demonstrators seemed greater than the thousands on Saturday, feting the military as guardians. At one point, crowds hoisted aloft an officer and processed through the throng chanting: “The people and the army are one hand.”

Sunday is usually the start of the working week here but banks schools and the stock market remained closed in a city paralyzed by the uprising, scarred by looting and braced for further protests. Some Cairenes said gas stations were running out of fuel and many automated cash machines had either run out of money or had been looted.

State television said Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based satellite broadcaster whose coverage of the turmoil in the Arab world has spread word of protests from capital to capital, was being taken off the air in Egypt. But, initially at least, the station continued to broadcast. Earlier, its Arabic channel had proclaimed: “Egypt speaks for itself.” Internet connections remained cut on Sunday as the authorities sought to contain the potential spread of unrest.

Egypt closed its border with the Palestinian coastal enclave of Gaza, Palestinian authorities said. In a highly unusual development, a diplomat said, Israel authorized Egyptian troops to take up positions in the north of the Sinai peninsula, despite a prohibition on such deployments in the 1979 Camp David peace accord. The diplomat spoke in return for anonymity in light of the sensitivity of the issue.

As street protests flared for a fifth day on Saturday, Mr. Mubarak fired his cabinet and appointed Omar Suleiman, his right-hand man and the country’s intelligence chief, as vice president, stirring speculation that he might be planning to resign. That, in turn, raised the prospect of an unpredictable handover of power in a country that is a pivotal American ally — a fear that administration officials say factored into President Obama’s calculus not to push for Mr. Mubarak’s resignation, at least for now.

The appointments of two former generals — Mr. Suleiman and Ahmed Shafik, who was named prime minister — also signaled the central role the armed forces will play in shaping the outcome of the unrest. But even though the military is widely popular with the public, there was no sign that the government shakeup would placate protesters, who added anti-Suleiman slogans to their demands.

On Saturday, Mohamed ElBaradei, the Noble laureate and a leading critic of the government, told Al Jazeera that Mr. Mubarak should step down immediately so that a new “national unity government” could take over, though he offered no details about its makeup.

But, among more affluent Egyptians, some said the country needed stability more than upheaval. After night when men took to the streets armed with broom sticks and kitchen knives to defend their home against looters in Heliopolis, one resident, Sarah Elyashy, 33, said: “It has been the longest night of my life.”

“I wish we could be like the United States with our own democracy, but we can’t,” she said. “We have to have a ruler with an iron hand.”

Control of the streets, meanwhile, cycled through a dizzying succession of stages.

After an all-out war against hundreds of thousands of protesters who flooded the streets on Friday night, the legions of black-clad security police officers — a reviled paramilitary force focused on upholding the state — withdrew from the biggest cities.

Looters smashed store windows and ravaged shopping malls as police stations and the national party headquarters burned through the night. Two mummies were destroyed in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum, the country’s chief antiquities official said. Then thousands of army troops stepped in late Friday to reinforce the police. It was unclear whether the soldiers in the streets were operating without orders or in defiance of them. But their displays of support for the protesters were conspicuous throughout the capital. In one striking example, four armored military vehicles moved at the front of a crowd of thousands of protesters in a pitched battle against the Egyptian security police defending the Interior Ministry.

But the soldiers refused protesters’ pleas to open fire on the security police. And the police battered the protesters with tear gas, shotguns and rubber bullets. Everywhere in Cairo, soldiers and protesters hugged or snapped pictures together on top of military tanks. With the soldiers’ consent, protesters scrawled graffiti denouncing Mr. Mubarak on many of the tanks. “This is the revolution of all the people,” read a common slogan. “No, no, Mubarak” was another.

By Saturday night, informal brigades of mostly young men armed with bats, kitchen knives and other makeshift weapons had taken control, setting up checkpoints around the city.

Some speculated that the sudden withdrawal of the police from the cities — even some museums and embassies in Cairo were left unguarded — was intended to create chaos that could justify a crackdown.

Before the street fights late Saturday, government officials had acknowledged more than 70 deaths in the unrest, with 40 around Cairo. But the final death toll is likely to be much higher. One doctor in a crowd of protesters said the staff at his Cairo hospital alone had seen 23 people dead from bullet wounds, and he showed digital photographs of the victims.

There were ominous signs of lawlessness Saturday in places where the police had abandoned their posts.

Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, said that he observed a group of soldiers completely surrounded by people asking for help in protecting their neighborhoods. The army told them that they would have to take care of their own neighborhoods and that there might be reinforcements Sunday.

“Egypt has been a police state for 30 years. For the police to suddenly disappear from the streets is a shocking experience,” Mr. Bouckaert said.

State television also announced the arrest of an unspecified number of members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the outlawed Islamist group long considered the largest and best organized political group in Egypt, for “acts of theft and terrorism.”

It was unclear, however, what role the Brotherhood played in the protests or might play if Mr. Mubarak were toppled.

If Mr. Mubarak’s decision to pick a vice president aroused hopes of his exit, his choice of Mr. Suleiman did nothing to appease the crowds in the streets. Long trusted with most sensitive matters like the Israeli-Palestinian talks, Mr. Suleiman is well connected in both Washington and Tel Aviv. But he is also Mr. Mubarak’s closest aide, considered almost an alter ego, and the protesters’ negative reaction was immediate.

Many of the protesters were critical of the United States and complained about American government support for Mr. Mubarak or expressed disappointment with President Obama. “I want to send a message to President Obama,” said Mohamed el-Mesry, a middle-aged professional. “I call on President Obama, at least in his statements, to be in solidarity with the Egyptian people and freedom, truly like he says.”


No Axe to Grid The unsentimental Barack Obama and the sentimental David Axelrod said goodbye Friday night

"Axelrod to the future," at the home of Linda Douglass and John Phillips - The president, who kept with the party's casual dress code, delivered the final toast:
"Deep down, David got into this business because he actually thinks this stuff matters. And he actually thinks that if we do this right, that some kid somewhere is going to have a better life. Or some parent somewhere is going to get some relief from the difficulties of illness ...
Or the country's going to be a little truer to the ideals that David saw in JFK, the first time he sat on a mailbox and watched him go by. And that side of David is tested and challenged ...
He's accused of somehow being too bold with his candidate or his candidates. ...
I know I would not be here, as president, without him. More importantly, I wouldn't have kept my feet on the ground ... if it hadn't been for our ongoing conversations."

No Axe to Grid

There are other historic bromances in the news. King George VI and Lionel Logue. Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

But rarely has there been a partnership that rocked the world the way the Chicago odd couple did. The lean, neat One and the hefty, messy one accomplished what seemed impossible: Getting a black man the nation’s worst job, as The Onion memorably put it.

So it was a parting of sweet sorrow this weekend for The Brand and The Keeper of The Brand.

The unsentimental Barack Obama and the sentimental David Axelrod said goodbye Friday night over an intimate dinner in the White House residence. (Along with their wives.)

The adviser will return to Chicago — to his family; his beloved deli, Manny’s; the re-election ramp-up; and to his pal, Rahm. Obama and Axelrod agreed the West Wing team had gotten too insular. “As one of my colleagues said, the White House is a bit like working in a submarine: it’s better to come up for air,” Axelrod recalled Friday in his small office in a White House consumed with Cairo fires and pelted with Washington snow.

The 55-year-old former newspaperman and political consultant became an early muse to the young poet who bewitched a nation. It was a coup de foudre for the idealistic strategist. “I’ve not made any bones about my feelings about him,” he says, when asked if he’s too adoring. Robert Gibbs jokingly dubbed Axe “the guy who walks in front of the president with rose petals.”

But once Obama got deluged with a torrent of presidential crises, the poetry stopped, and the adviser in charge of the message got some blame.

“Yeah, we were too prosaic,” he said. “We all got sort of dragged down, you know; we were a triage unit. I think all of us have been guilty of neglecting that really important part of the presidency, where you’re operating in the world of ideals and values and vision.”

He continued: “There were a lot of hands on the words, a lot of concern about every nuance. And it is true that this is a place where an errant clause can send markets tumbling and armies marching, and you’re always aware of that.”

The vaunted change gave way to the usual logrolling. “It was, so, you need this guy’s vote and therefore, perhaps we shouldn’t emphasize that issue because they will be less apt to support us on the recovery plan and the country could slip into a depression,” Axelrod said.

The president recaptured some inspirational force in Tucson, his heart clearly touched by 9-year-old Christina Green. Her parents told Obama that their daughter had gotten interested in politics partly because she was drawn to him.

The president is “happier” taking a more optimistic, big-picture approach, Axelrod said, noting, “He’s in the zone in which he’s most comfortable.”

Packing boxes leaned against the office wall. David Plouffe, a more orderly, reserved type — a man who shows his affection for Obama by studying the turnout models for Congressional swing districts — is moving in Monday.

Though Axe can wax endlessly about Washington’s wayward ways, he admitted to friends that it’s harder leaving than he thought, and he plunged into bon voyage parties and dinners. Asked about the cascade of “exclusive” exit interviews he was giving, he warned drolly: “Don’t turn on the Shopping Network!”

“The White House is like fantasy camp for him,” said his charming assistant, Eric Lesser. “He could go to an Afghan war council in the Situation Room, meet Sandy Koufax and have a baseball signed, and have lunch with Caroline Kennedy.”

Axelrod’s final Friday began with Lesser bringing the usual oatmeal. (Now that the boss has lost 25 pounds, Lesser permits him a sprinkling of brown sugar again.) Pointing to some “victimized” ties hanging on the door, the strategist noted: “The one thing I learned on this job is, don’t eat your oatmeal standing up.”

The avid punster offered a parting pun at the 8:30 a.m. meeting — urging everyone to “plow forward” on a plan for genetically produced alfalfa.

Axelrod is not tech-savvy. There was that time he was in such a rush for an early campaign bus that he mistook a bar of hotel soap for his BlackBerry, later pulling the soap out of a pocket to check his e-mails. And the time he killed a BlackBerry with glaze from a donut.

So it was a surprise Friday when he said he was going to open a Twitter account so he could “leap into the debate from time to time.”

I asked Axelrod what he’d like to steal on the way out. Nodding toward the Oval Office, he replied conspiratorially, “He has the Emancipation Proclamation in there. That would be a nice going-away present.”

Will we ever find Osama bin Laden?

Don't count on it.

We have almost 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. We've launched more than 200 drone attacks in Pakistan's remote tribal regions. We've spent billions of dollars on intelligence. And as the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks approaches, we're still no closer to finding Osama bin Laden.

It seems possible, even likely, that we'll be saying much the same on the 15th anniversary of Sept. 11, and again on the 20th. Given the sorry state of the hunt for the man who masterminded the largest mass murder in U.S. history, we should not be surprised if bin Laden dies, years from now, in the comfort of his own bed.

For the second consecutive year, President Obama didn't mention bin Laden in his State of the Union address. The threat of terrorism received relatively little attention; after all, the budget deficit, economic competitiveness and civility in Washington are the big debates of the moment. Besides, bin Laden doesn't matter anymore - he's cowering in some cave and no longer running al-Qaeda or its affiliates, right?

Wrong. We underestimate bin Laden at our peril. His influence over al-Qaeda remains enormous - symbolically, strategically and tactically. His ability to stay alive and free is a great morale booster for al-Qaeda and its allies and allows the elusive leader to keep setting the agenda for the global jihadist movement.

Bin Laden's continued sway over that movement is undeniable. Three years ago, the Saudi government commissioned a study of militants in its custody, interviewing 639 extremists arrested before 2004 and another 53 arrested between 2004 and 2006. In both studies, Saudi officials told me, a majority of participants cited bin Laden as their most important role model.

Similarly, in Britain, terrorist plotters have made emblematic remarks about al-Qaeda's leader in videos that they believed would be their final earthly statements. Mohammed Sidique Khan, the leader of the July 2005 suicide attacks in London, called bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri "heroes," while Abdulla Ahmed Ali, the ringleader of the plot to bring down seven passenger jets over the Atlantic in 2006, declared that "Sheik Osama warned you many times to leave our lands or you will be destroyed. And now the time has come for you to be destroyed."

Terrorists continue to act on bin Laden's pronouncements. In March 2008, the al-Qaeda leader decried the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad published in a Danish newspaper as a "catastrophe" meriting swift punishment. Three months later, an al-Qaeda suicide bomber blew himself up outside the Danish Embassy in Pakistan, killing six. And senior U.S. officials say that planning for Mumbai-style attacks in Europe, which led to a Europe-wide terror alert from the State Department last fall, was backed by al-Qaeda's senior leaders, including bin Laden.

Bin Laden's al-Qaeda, which has long considered itself a vanguard organization, has ideologically hijacked larger terrorist groups in Pakistan that had not previously seen themselves as part of his global jihad. These include Lashkar-i-Taiba, which mounted the 2008 attacks in Mumbai; the Pakistani Taliban, which dispatched a bomber to Times Square in May 2010; and Harkat-e-Jihad-e-Islami, which recruited a U.S. citizen to kill staffers at the Danish newspaper that printed the prophet Muhammad cartoons. And when militants join al-Qaeda, they take an oath of fealty not to the organization but to bin Laden himself.

Despite bin Laden's continued importance, what has the hunt turned up since the Obama administration assumed office? Nothing. The closest we've ever come to catching him was at the battle of Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan in December 2001, when he was pinned down by hundreds of Afghan militiamen and dozens of U.S. Special Forces operators - only to disappear into the mountains like a wraith.

The consensus view among intelligence officers is that bin Laden is now in or around Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province (recently renamed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), a region roughly the size of Virginia, full of craggy mountains and xenophobic tribes. And even that information is sketchy. A senior U.S. intelligence official told me recently that he has had "no confidence" in any of the intelligence relating to bin Laden's possible location "for years."

What will it take to get him? Cash rewards have helped ensnare other al-Qaeda leaders, but well-advertised bounties for bin Laden's head have yielded nothing. Similarly, bin Laden has not communicated via cellular or satellite phone for a decade. The United States, which relies heavily on signals intelligence, is virtually blind in its pursuit. If the trail has run cold, our best chance may be to wait for a misstep on bin Laden's part.

Every time bin Laden appears on one of his somewhat spectral videotapes or sends out an audio message - weighing in on topics from global warming to France's ban on burqas - he takes a risk. The tapes must be uploaded to a jihadist Web site or dropped off at an al-Jazeera bureau, giving possible clues to his location.

Also, some of bin Laden's lifelong habits may offer what intelligence analysts call a "signature" of his presence. One is his passion for thoroughbred horses, which the 53-year-old has ridden since his teens. (Even in his late 40s, he boasted of riding up to 40 miles a day.) And while most of Osama's five wives and 20 children have left him, he may want to attend family events such as the weddings of children living nearby. Robert Grenier, who was the CIA station chief in Pakistan in 2001, says local informants could also help by identifying unusual amounts or types of food sent to areas where bin Laden is believed to be hiding. (Bin Laden's first wife recalls that his favorite dish was zucchini stuffed with marrow.)

Ultimately, the end for bin Laden might come on the business end of a Hellfire missile from a CIA drone flying over Pakistan. In 2010, the Obama administration authorized 118 drone strikes, about triple the number that President George W. Bush authorized during his entire two terms. But even though such strikes have "decimated" the leadership of al-Qaeda, according to U.S. counterterrorism officials, none of the strikes appears to have targeted bin Laden himself.

There was a time when our top leaders considered getting bin Laden a security imperative. "We will kill bin Laden. We will crush al-Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority," then-candidate Barack Obama said during a presidential debate on Oct. 7, 2008. After winning the election, however, he began playing down the hunt. "My preference obviously would be to capture or kill him," the president-elect said in January 2009. "But if we have so tightened the noose that he's in a cave somewhere and can't even communicate with his operatives, then we will meet our goal of protecting America."

Even Bush suffered bin Laden fatigue. Though he called for the terrorist's capture "dead or alive" after 9/11, Bush later changed his tone. "I just don't spend that much time on him really, to be honest with you," he said in March 2002.

It would help to spend more time on him. Not only does bin Laden remain influential, but his death or capture would trigger a fierce - and potentially useful - succession battle. While Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri is technically bin Laden's successor, he is considered by many to be a divisive force and ill-suited for the top role. Eliminating bin Laden "would create fractures within the movement, renew a debate on broad strategy and remove the one figure best able to inspire new recruits," said John McLaughlin, who was the deputy director of the CIA until 2004. And as Roger Cressey, who coordinated counterterrorism policy for the National Security Council at the time of the 2001 attacks, put it to me: "How do we close the 9/11 chapter with him still being out there?"

For those of us hoping that chapter can someday be closed, one name should be sobering: the Faqir of Ipi. The Faqir was a Muslim religious leader who waged a guerrilla war against the British in Pakistan's tribal regions during the 1930s and 1940s from his base in North Waziristan. As many as 40,000 British and Indian soldiers deployed to the area to hunt him down.

They never found him. He died in his own bed in 1960 - reportedly from a severe case of asthma.

Peter Bergen is the director of national security studies at the New America Foundation and the author of "The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between America and Al-Qaeda," from which this essay is adapted.

Administration has played a terrible hand pretty well

The Obama administration has played a terrible hand pretty well so far. The president didn't create the conundrum he now faces:
How to deal with a regime that has lost its legitimacy and may not be able to maintain control but who's also a key ally in a region where America has critical interests.

Trying to thread this needle by not pressuring Mubarak to quit while identifying itself with forces of peaceful change while hoping that some orderly transition prevails may not be possible.
Whether Mubarak stays or goes may no longer even be relevant. The question is, can the institutions of the state that have governed Egypt - the military, bureaucracy; intelligence services and the wealthy business class adjust to the change that the opposition seems to want.

The fact is we are on he cusp of transformational changes in the Arab world - Tunisia, Lebanon, Egypt and perhaps elsewhere that will over the short term make it very uncomfortable for traditional American policies.
The peace process is already in the deep freeze and no Israeli government will make any decisions now when Arab states seem to be collapsing like houses of cards. Mubarak was a (repeat was) an oasis of stability in comparison with the Palestinian national movement, a kind of Noah's Ark with two of everything.
And the pillars of pro-western support in the Arab world - Egypt; Tunisia - may give way to more open politics where criticism of America will be not just tolerated but encouraged.

Even if the Obama administration manages to navigate this current crisis, it should prepare for a prolonged period of uncertainty and crisis. These popular revolutions could over time lead to more open and democratic societies; and that would be a very good thing.
But for the moment John Buchan's words in Greenmantle ring truer: "There's a dry wind blowing through the east, and the parched grasses await the spark."

Aaron David Miller
Former State Department official; Wilson Center scholar; Author of "Can America Have Another Great President?"