Mon, July 1, 2013 | RubinReports | By Barry Rubin
The news that the army has given a 48 hour ultimatum that unless stability returns it will step in has proven the headline of this article correct. Is the one-year-old experiment in Egyptian democracy going to end in the way that could have happened much easier in February 2011 — that is a continuity of the regime without Mubarak’?
I should be sufficiently cautious to say that it is possible if everyone played nice they will stop BUT why should the opposition leave when they want the army to stage a coup? Surely the generals know that.
Let us remember that four years ago Obama gave his Cairo speech sitting the Muslim Brotherhood leaders in the front row. President Husni Mubarak was insulted and it was the first hint that the Obama Administration would support Islamist regimes in the Arab world. Then Obama vetoed the State Department plan for a continuation of the old regime without Mubarak. Then Obama publicly announced — before anyone asked him — that the United States would not mind if the Brotherhood was in government. Then Obama did not give disproportionate help to the moderates. Then Obama pressed the army to get out of power quickly, which the moderates opposed since they needed more time than the Islamists to organize.
Many will say that the president of the United States cannot of course control events in Egypt. That’s true.’But he did everything possible to lead to this crisis.
Remember when Obama apologized for America’s past support of dictators? Well, how about this one?
I wonder if one day people will write that President Barack Obama is remarkably inept at foreign policy. Readers often say to me: You talk of stupidity and incompetence but he is doing this on purpose.
Let me make this clear: you can have a bad policy and a bad strategy but make it look good. The point is that Obama policy is so obviously bad — having circles run around it by Iran; the shameful Benghazi affair; the love affair with the Turkish regime; Kerry behaving as if he’ll have peace in the Middle East next Thursday and he cannot understand why no one ever thought of this before.
The height of administration wisdom in the Middle East is as if the most useful book has been The Dummy’s Guide to Ventriloquism. The implication of this, however, is that it is the public that is dumb or misled.
Try this one out. Say to a friend or someone:
Does it bother you that the United States is backing a regime led by anti-American, anti-Christian, antisemitic, anti-women, and anti-gay rulers who are unrepentant former Nazi collaborators?
I usually find that people who are selected at random politically sort of shrug.
Then ask, do you believe that such rulers will become moderate?
Let’s analyze Obama’s statement to see why I say that his policy is stupid and incompetent regardless of what you think his goals were:
“Well, on Egypt, obviously we’re all looking at the situation there with concern. The United States has supported democracy in Egypt. It has been challenging given that there is not a tradition of democracy in Egypt. And the Egyptian people have been finding their way.”
Here is one of many occasions where Obama is not really Politically Correct because he is ignorant of history and looks down a Third World people as backward.
— Egypt has a lot of experience with democracy during the 1922-1952 period.
— Might it be questionable also whether the United States should support democracy if that is so challenging that U.S. interests cannot be secured that way?
— Might the U.S. government have done more to help Egyptians “finding their way” by encouraging the military to take longer to make a tradition rather than keep demanding things go faster and faster, which is what the better-organized Muslim Brotherhood wanted but not the moderates who needed more time.
“Our most immediate concern with respect to protests this weekend have to do with our embassies and consulates. And so we have been in direct contact with the Egyptian government, and we have done a whole range of planning to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to keep our embassies and consulate protected, and our diplomats and personnel there safe.”
Of course, that is the job of the president but I feel as if this statement was rather cowardly. He should have said that our most immediate concern is that violence not break out; that “extremists” not exploit it, and that Egypt remained stable. Question: Why did Obama use this formulation? Think? Because of Benghazi of course.
This time, though, Obama has communicated that he’s trembling before the crisis, what a great Middle East expert once called the “preemptive cringe.” Clearly he should know that his saying this is likely to make it more likely for American diplomats and institutions to be targeted. (Remind you of a certain video?)
There is a big problem, however, who gets dibs on the American embassy: the regime and its supporters who think that America is the Great Infidel or the opposition which thinks that Obama has sold them out their worst enemy. The answer: Even hours regime supporters burn down U.S. facilities; odd hours the opposition does. Who says Obama isn’t bringing people together?
Obama then did continue:
“But, more broadly, what we’ve said publicly and what we’ve said privately is that we support peaceful process — or peaceful protests and peaceful methods of bringing about change in Egypt. I think every party has to denounce violence.”
A peaceful process toward what? A smart Obama might have spoken about the rule of law and the courts, thus giving some hope to the opposition. The judges will soon rule on the legality of the last parliamentary election. He could have dropped this in as a hint.
As for “denouncing violence that sounds good but why doesn’t he mention that the Islamists, especially the Salafis, have been using violence. Again, this is why the opposition knows the Obama Administration is on the Muslim Brotherhood side.
“We’d like to see the opposition and President Morsi engaged in a more constructive conversation around how they move their country forward, because nobody is benefiting from the current stalemate that exists there.”
Zoinks! A “more constructive conversation?” What is this a community organizer’s seminar? This has been parallel to what Obama has been calling for during the Syrian civil war. How about setting some strategic goals?
“And we do not take sides in terms of who should be elected by the Egyptian people. We do take sides in terms of observing a process for democracy and rule of law.”
We don’t care who wins, says Obama, we only care about the process.In other words if you have the votes you can go on getting U.S. arms, money, and diplomatic support while you burn down churches, etc.
“And that all the players there engage in the necessary tough compromises so that they can start focusing on the things that probably matter most to the ordinary Egyptian, which is jobs, energy costs, food costs, housing, schooling for their kids, creating economic opportunity.”
Sounds like a New York Times editorial which tells people what they don’t plan to do. They aren’t going to care about such a focus. When has any ideological dictatorship, whether or not elected, done so? This is a fantasy world. Anyway, how well has Obama focused on these things? Jobs are down; food and housing and energy cost more, nothing has been done toward energy independence, schooling is worse, and where’s economic opportunity?
“And Egypt, I think, for the last year and a half, two years, has had great difficult focusing on those vital issues.”
Now why is that? Because you supported a situation that ensured Egypt would be unstable! YOU DID IT!
Imagine this scene, the back of an old taxi bumping along in the dark, near a waterfront area.
Obama: Look, kid, the dictator we got you for a dictator…he brought you along too fast.
Egypt: It wasn’t him, Charley. It was you. Remember that night in al-Tahrir Square? You came down to my dressing room and said, “Kid, this ain’t your night. We’re going for the price on the Brotherhood. So what happens, he gets the title shot outdoors in the ball park…and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palookaville! You was my ally, Charley. You should have looked out for me a little bit. Let’s face it. It was you, Charley!
Obama went on:
“So, again, top priority: Making sure that our embassies and consulates are prepared for this wave of protests. Number two, we are supportive of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly inside of Egypt, but we would urge all parties to make sure that they’re not engaging in violence, and that police and military are showing appropriate restraint. And number three, how do we make sure that we get this political process back on track. And that’s a difficult and challenging situation. But Egypt is the largest country in the Arab world, and I think the entire region is concerned that if Egypt continues with this constant instability, that that has adverse effects more broadly.”
Political process? What junk in strategic terms. Look, the Muslim Brotherhood wants to fundamentally transform Egyptian society. It wants to divide the society and set groups against each other. It wants to act in a way that undermines the already sick economy. It wants to thoroughly vilify its opponents but then demands “compromise” which means surrender.
Surely Obama must be familiar with situations of that kind?
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His next book, “Nazis, Islamists and the Making of the Modern Middle East,” written with Wolfgang G. Schwanitz, will be published by Yale University Press in January 2014. His latest book is “Israel: An Introduction,” also published by Yale. Thirteen of his books can be read and downloaded for free at the website of the GLORIA Center including “The Arab States and the Palestine Conflict,” “The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East” and “The Truth About Syria.” His blog is Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.