Post-Egypt, will America’s youth vote turn on Obama in 2012?

“The official foreign policy position of the United States toward both its client dictatorships and those populations who attempt to overthrow them” — Mr. Fish.

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You see, Obama has a problem. Let’s pretend for a second that, unlike the rest of us, he’s driven purely by self-interest. What does he care about most? Why, 2012 of course.

And what’s his route to get there, at least in his own estimation? The magical American Youth Vote. That is, the people who bought his spiel in 2008, the people with whom he tried and failed to win in 2010, and the starry-eyed horse he plans to ride in 2012, if his constant campus appearances are any indication. FDL:

The DNC pursued a risky GOTV strategy in 2010: instead of turning out likely midterm voters, they focused on 2008 surge voters. That meant young people in urban areas who had not voted before, who nonetheless turned out to elect Obama in 2008. Predictably, they weren’t very interested in a non-Presidential election and did not turn out in numbers sufficient to forestall a Democratic drubbing. Democrats who hailed from non-urban districts were left to fend for themselves when it came to GOTV efforts.

But that just underscores how important young voters are to Obama right now. The DNC was willing to throw Democratic congressional seats on a risky strategy that failed as a 2010 GOTV effort, but successfully began the outreach for Obama 2012. It’s no coincidence Obama favored college campuses when he personally hit the campaign trail.

Which means that no matter how much the whole U.S. establishment wants another pro-Israel strongman in Egypt, and says so — surprise, Suleiman is strongly pro-Israel — Obama himself has to come out on the side of the “youth revolution” in Egypt because, well, he wants to hold onto power in 2012.

And that means that he has to personally say he wants different things than the whole rest of the government — which wants to keep Omar Suleiman in charge. And Obama’s market for this pitch isn’t in Egypt; it’s in the U.S., among those magical Youth Voters he’s already trying to influence.

The problem is that the youth of Egypt may be listening as well, and that listening may extend to belief. He is, after all, the guy who gave that great Cairo speech. And to some extent, Obama, the first black president, son of a Muslim father, is a magical figure himself in their own starry eyes.

So what may be the outcome of all this? I’m reminded of 1991, when the Shi’ites rose up against Saddam Hussein with the fatal encouragement of the U.S.:

The revolt was fueled by the perception that the power of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was vulnerable at the time; as well as by heavily fueled anger at government repression and the devastation wrought by two wars in a decade, the Iran-Iraq War and the Gulf War. United States also played a role in encouraging the uprisings, which were then controversially not aided by the U.S. forces present on Iraqi soil.

Thus Obama’s Scylla-and-Charybdis dilemma, a kind of Catch-22. What happens if he doesn’t encourage “democracy” in Egypt? Those starry-eyed magical Youth in the U.S. may not keep him in position to mediate between the needs of the people and the demands of corporations past his 2012 sell-by date. Bummer for Team Change (we’ll call that Scylla).

But what happens if the youth of Egypt believe him and think that the U.S. might actually support people like Mohamed ElBaradei, Wael Ghonim, and the Egyptian magical youth? Let’s just say that Suleiman’s Mukhabarat has an answer for that — unless Obama actually matches words to deeds. Bummer for the magical believers in Egypt (let’s call that Charybdis). And since Suleiman has their names and addresses, he could be putting down the January 25 Revolution for decades.

And all that battering, all that blood, could splash back at Obama as he stands on the world’s bright stage. Waiting for 2012. Will the target magical Youth of America stay starry-eyed, if the actually magical youth of Egypt are beaten to a pulp? Bummer for Team 2012 (oops, Scylla again).

In other words, will Obama sacrifice Egyptian protesters to win the U.S. youth vote in 2012? Or will he support the protesters in fact and risk losing the Israel lobby and the well-funded, politically savvy U.S. “security” establishment in 2012?

Obama’s dilemma in a nutshell. According to Mr. Fish, all lights are green at this point. Full speed ahead.


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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