For the United States and Europe, this amounts to a colossal strategic failure. Nothing — and certainly not the outcome in Afghanistan or Iraq — was more important than getting Egypt right. President Obama, who began his presidency with an attempt to build bridges to the Arab and Muslim world through a speech in Cairo, has seen his greatest failure in that very city. Post-Tahrir Egypt stands now as a monument to America’s declining influence in the world, even in a nation receiving $1.5 billion in annual aid.
All that American money translated into no ability to restrain a largely American-trained military (including General Sisi). It translated into little ability to persuade Morsi to reach out beyond the Brotherhood and refrain from railroading through a divisive constitution.
The Obama administration has appeared hesitant and wavering, zigzagging from support for Morsi to acceptance of his ouster.
That’s certainly true, as far as it goes. But the author, Roger Cohen, seems clueless because he seems to be surprised or to have expected otherwise, from Obama or from Egypt or from the Brotherhood. Cohen also seems to think the “knave vs. fool” question should be answered “fool” for Obama, and I disagree; I am very distrustful of Obama’s motives and goals in Egypt.
When I started this blog, I chose the name “neo-neocon” because it means “new conservative who used to be a liberal Democrat.” I discovered that “neocon” unfortunately also seems to be used quite often as a pejorative term for people who are eager to wage war to spread democracy or who think liberal democracy is easy to achieve and will just happen if we allow it. This couldn’t be further from what I actually believe. You will find a great deal of verbiage about what I do believe if you go to the right sidebar and read under the category “neocons,” but suffice to say I believe it is very difficult to foster liberty-protecting democracies (or republics) in countries with no such tradition of it, although it should be a very long-term goal.
It seems that the very best interpretation we can give for Obama’s treatment of Egypt is that he has been more naive than the stereotype of any neocon in presuming Egypt would manage the feat virtually unassisted. And most of the pundits of the left or liberal persuasion seemed equally sanguine about the possibilities. Some were knaves and never believed it to begin with, and the rest were fools.