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Obama’s Epic Middle East Failures

So now we learn that the Obama administration has secretly suspended most forms of military aid to Egypt.

As a matter of public policy, this strikes me–as it does several of my COMMENTARY colleagues–as unwise. It will only succeed in alienating the ruling power in Egypt. (The Wall Street Journal reports that “Egypt’s military-led government said it was ‘reviewing’ its strategic relationships with the U.S. and other Western governments critical of its crackdown on Islamists, deepening the divide between the Obama administration and Cairo.”) And for all our understandable reservations about supporting the Egyptian military in this conflict, especially after its recent crackdown, the military is still the preferable option. It’s not really a close call. Like the National Socialists in Germany in 1933, the Muslim Brotherhood won an election and took the occasion to impose an increasingly repressive, anti-Semitic, and anti-American rule. So from the perspective of American national security and morality, having the Muslim Brotherhood in power is considerably worse than having the Egyptian military in power. Among other things, at least the latter considers its main enemy to be Islamism rather than Israel.

As for the Obama administration, the American Interest’s Walter Russell Mead concludes his long piece with this assessment:

Meanwhile, at least somebody is getting some benefit out of America’s miserable crawl through the desert. For Egypt’s generals, hungry to use every scrap of material to whomp up patriotic fervor for their cause, every sign of American displeasure, every jet not delivered and every lecture sternly read, is pure gold. The one thing everybody in Egypt agrees on now is that the Americans are about the most horrible people around—arrogant, stupid, judgmental, impractical, and not to be trusted when the going gets tough. The liberals, the generals, the Mubarak family, the Christians, the Islamists: on this one point they can all agree.

With Professor Mead’s words in mind, I’d urge people to re-read Mr. Obama’s June 4, 2009 “New Beginning” speech in Cairo. We were assured it would be “momentous,” “groundbreaking,” “epic,” and “historic.” It would fulfill, in Obama’s words, his campaign commitment to “remake” relations with the Muslim world.

That was then. Today we have Egypt being torn apart by violence, Syria riven by civil war, Iraq being convulsed by increasing violence, Jordan being destabilized, Libya looking increasingly like a failed state, the war in Afghanistan sputtering toward failure, Iran continuing its march toward nuclear weapons, worrisome developments in Pakistan and Turkey, and Russia re-establishing a presence for the first time since the early 1970s. And that doesn’t even exhaust the list. America’s reputation is at a low ebb.

Even if you are willing to grant, as I do, that (a) governing is harder than giving speeches and (b) America’s capacity to shape events is limited, the president’s Middle East failures, especially when juxtaposed with his unearned arrogance, are staggering. And it’s certainly reasonable to judge Mr. Obama by his own words and standards.  

Barack Obama promised that if he were elected president he would “remake” the world. He has; and America is paying a terrible price for it.


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