What makes a powerful nation powerful in matters of foreign relations is a clear and consistent voice. The leadership must know what they want and they must know the leverage available to them to attain their goals. A key component of this is knowledgeable intelligence operations. The ability to collect data and then to interpret and make judgments based on what you have deduced is critical. Part of the package is classic gathering through overt and covert operations. Read the papers, listen to the radio, talk to the man on the streets. Monitor by satellite, infiltrate political movements, understand the history. Organize a competent diplomatic presence on the scene. Then take what you know and integrate it into policy.
The last eighteen days in Egypt have indicated that the administration is capable of none of that. Gather the speeches of the Messiah with regard to Mubarek over the past ten days. Stay, go, extend, transition, we're behind you, we're behind the people, listen to the Army, have an election, or maybe not. The apparent desire to jump ahead of events to create the image of being influential has on several occasions demonstrated how out of touch he is.
Then the parading of the intelligence community's leadership before the nation to demonstrate their total inconsistency and incompetence is the final straw. Panetta of CIA says Mubark will step down, then he doesn't. Clapper touts the Muslim Brotherhood as secular, democratic and anti-al-Qaeda. Mueller of FBI says just the opposite.
This would be seriously laughable if it weren't so critical to world peace and stability. It's Monty Python playing out in real life.
You could make the case that intelligence is much more art than science. That has occasionally been true. But, if you make that case for Obama's handling of Egypt, how can you go back to the leftist bleat that George W. Bush lied or was incompetent in his justification for initiating war in Iraq? If you wish to accept that Bush was a bumbler, then where does that inevitably dump responsibility for this fiasco?