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The U.S. and Egypt: The Limits of Hegemony

Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011

The Obama administration's reaction to the dramatic events in Egypt has inspired many analogies in recent days. Its initial caution and clumsiness, followed by its conviction to "be on the right side of history," reminded optimists of the Bush administration's reaction in 1989 to the uprisings in Eastern Europe, for example, and pessimists of the Carter administration's reaction a decade earlier to Iran's revolution.

The Obama administration's air of ambivalence, however, evokes a perennial condition of international relations. Accustomed as most of us are to power hierarchies, we often overlook how difficult and complex actual relations can be between big and small countries, especially when those relations fall into the category of patron and client. ...

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