So long as both of the key Arab powers—Egypt with its population, and Saudi Arabia with its petroleum—remain client-states of America, the Middle East and its oil are safely in US hands, and there is no reason to deny Israel anything it wishes. But should that ever change, the fate of the Palestinians would instantly alter. America has invested enormous sums to sustain Mubarak’s moth-eaten dictatorship in Cairo, cordially despised by the Egyptian masses, and spared no effort to protect the feudal plutocracy in Riyadh, perched above a sea of rightless immigrants. If either of these edifices were toppled—in the best of cases, both—the balance of power in the region would be transformed.
– Perry Anderson, 2001. (Anderson’s entire essay is worth revisiting at this moment since it offers a very clear-eyed view on many issues, including the limits of the “peace process” which was recently highlighted by the leak of the Palestinian papers.)
JIM LEHRER: The word — the word to describe the leadership of Mubarak and Egypt and also in Tunisia before was dictator. Should Mubarak be seen as a dictator?
JOE BIDEN: Look, Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things and he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interests in the region: Middle East peace efforts, the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing the relationship with Israel.
And I think that it would be — I would not refer to him as a dictator.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Vice President, should we be — should the United States be encouraging these protesters, whether they’re in Tunisia or Egypt or wherever? They want their rights. And should we encourage them to seek them, if it means going to the streets or whatever?
JOE BIDEN: I think we should encourage both those who are, to use your phrase, seeking the rights and the government to talk, to actually sit down and talk with one another, to try to resolve some of what are the — the interests that are being pursued by those who are protesting.
Now, so far, there seems to be some differences. And, historically, in the past, the concern was in some of these countries that some of the more radical elements of the society, more radicalized were the ones in the streets.