Caught between military dictatorship and Muslim Brotherhood rule, Egyptians face a choice between bad and worse. Through its rhetoric and aid policy, Obama administration has consistently favored the worst of the bad lot.
Today, Thursday, July 3, marks the one-year anniversary of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Mohamed Morsi’s ouster from the presidency by the Egyptian military in the wake of massive protests. Morsi’s successor, former defense minister Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, was sworn in as president this past June 8.
While Sisi is undeniably authoritarian, he has not openly allied himself with jihadi terrorists as Morsi has. In his inaugural address, Morsi announced his intention to agitate for the release of Omar Abdel-Rahman from U.S. custody. Rahman, known in the U.S. as the “blind sheikh,” is implicated in the 1981 assassination of Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat, the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, and numerous other terrorist plots.
Responsible foreign policy requires the ability to distinguish between bad outcomes, and a willingness to accept something less than desirable when necessary. In Egypt, the Obama administration has treated military rule as the worst, and perhaps the only, catastrophe that could befall Egypt. Whether intentionally or not, this line of thinking has led to policies that favor Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Consider the way Secretary of State Hillary Clinton provided Morsi with verbal support in the critical days leading up to the June 24, 2012, presidential election. In a discussion hosted at the State Department three days before the election, Clinton said it was “imperative that the military fulfill its promise to the Egyptian people to turn power over to the legitimate winner.” She also warned about the danger of “backtracking,” to a military regime.
In a different context, those remarks would be entirely reasonable. The rub is that Morsi’s competitor, Ahmed Shafiq, was a military man denounced by critics as a throwback to the Mubarak regime. Clinton’s uttering of these words in the eleventh hour of the campaign — without any warning about the dangers of Islamist government — could only have undermined him.