The view from Egypt: Jumping the gun on the peace prize?

When President Barack Obama came to Cairo in June and made his address to the Muslim world, reaction in Egypt was wildly positive. Many Egyptians had fallen in love with the new young American president with an Arabic middle name. Some even picked up the “Yes we can” slogan. His appeal was fueled by an almost unanimous dislike for his predecessor, George W. Bush, widely perceived in the region as a Christian fundamentalist leading an anti-Muslim crusade. But that was then. Euphoria has a short shelf life in the Middle East, and Barack Obama is not exempt. To gauge reaction among Egyptian intellectuals to the news, I called Hisham Qassim, a democracy and human rights activist I’ve known for many years. He was perplexed at the news from Norway. President Obama, he said, “is stumbling in the Middle East. He hasn’t achieved any of his promises, and the Arab-Israeli conflict appears to be getting even nastier.” In short, he said, “nothing is working.”