Flexibility can be advantageous in international relations, but there comes a time when it looks like dithering.
So it is in the US, where the official position on the Egypt uprising has been changing almost daily. The Obama administration’s immediate response was to back the president, Hosni Mubarak, to the dismay of the protesters.
Joe Biden, the vice-president, insisted on January 27 that Mubarak was not a dictator. By last Tuesday that position was reversed. Obama abandoned Mubarak an hour after the Egyptian president said he would remain in office until September, saying it would be better if the transition process began “now”. That was the message on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
On Sunday, the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton aligned the US with the Egyptian vice-president, Omar Suleiman.
Obama opponents argue that abrupt policy changes reflect uncertainty at the heart of an Obama administration.