Commentary Magazine


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The Brotherhood Makes Its Move, the U.S. Looks on

Things could be taking a dangerous turn in Egypt. The Washington Post reports that the Muslim Brotherhood has new interest in participating in talks on the transition of leadership. “The Brotherhood had refused to join talks Saturday, insisting that Mubarak leave first. But leaders of the movement changed their minds Sunday, saying they wanted to play a role in shaping a transition of power and organizing free elections.”

The American response has been less than inspiring. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told National Public Radio: “Today we learned the Muslim Brotherhood decided to participate, which suggests they at least are now involved in the dialogue that we have encouraged.” Yes, participation does suggest involvement, doesn’t it? “We’re going to wait and see how this develops,” she said, “but we’ve been very clear about what we expect.”

The only party that has actually been clear about what it expects is the Muslim Brotherhood — and it expects to rule. That’s an unacceptable outcome for Americans and democrats in and outside of Egypt. The administration needs to indicate that future American aid — which contributes to vital wheat subsidies for millions of Egyptians — will be assessed with consideration to the nature and goals of Egypt’s next government.

We’ve seen that the Obama administration is not incapable of reaching the right decision. The problem is it takes so long getting there that its stalling inevitably creates new situations for which it is not prepared. In offering no more than color commentary as Islamists negotiate their leadership role in Egypt, Hillary Clinton is letting a new and depressing chapter of this saga slip out of America’s reach.