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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Past events create expectations, fairly or unfairly. Reading reports, from people on the ground, that today's massive marches throughout Egypt have been peaceful has been admittedly a bit surprising. From what I've been able to gather, there have been no reports of violence from among the protesters today, or from the state against them.

Great news, right? But isn't that something we should expect, especially of an allied government? That sentiment should go right into the "Captain Obvious" file. The Department of Defense apparently disagrees.

Writing for Wired's Danger Room blog, Spencer Ackerman was likewise struck by the lack of violence, but was really taken aback by what he calls an "unalloyed 'attaboy' " to the Egyptian troops from the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen. First, those props, in a DoD podcast:

"So far, the Egyptian military have handled themselves exceptionally well," he said. "You can see that just from the pictures that have been displayed, in terms of how they have been accepted by their people."

Second, Ackerman touches on the messaging:

Mullen’s big-up for his Egyptian counterparts -- "a stabilizing influence," he said -- is a sharp contrast with four days' worth of rhetoric from senior Obama administration officials. The military is now the only entity in Egypt that the administration has unambiguously praised.

Third, it's been clear, despite earlier reports of protesters being fired upon, that the military was more inclined to hold the center than to get involved either way. Our government giving the Egyptian army dap for not shooting its citizens was a backhanded compliment; it implies America's assumption that there would be violence.

Yes, past events create expectations, but it's disheartening to see that in a time in which Egypt and the Arab world are showing their real potential, we still expect the worst.


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