Nobody could have seriously expected President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to be pushed to explain their record of foreign policy failures in their joint interview on “60 Minutes” last night. With presidential sycophant Steve Kroft asking the questions there was little probing other than about their personal interrelations and the obligatory question about 2016 (which reminded us that the only real loser in the interview was Vice President Joe Biden who, despite being the adult in the White House when it comes to getting things passed through Congress, was sent the clear message that he is still an also-ran as far as the president is concerned). But there was one real nugget of information about the future of American foreign policy that the president let slip, and it actually deserves more attention than the titillating details about the Obama-Clinton alliance.
The real headline out of the interview ought to center on the following remark by the president in response to a rather soft question about his “lead from behind” strategy in the Middle East:
President Obama: Well, Muammar Qaddafi probably does not agree with that assessment, or at least if he was around, he wouldn’t agree with that assessment. Obviously, you know, we helped to put together and lay the groundwork for liberating Libya. You know, when it comes to Egypt, I think, had it not been for the leadership we showed, you might have seen a different outcome there.
Let me get this straight. President Obama is not merely bragging about a conflict in Libya that led to chaos not only in that country that produced the murders of four Americans including our ambassador. He is also saying that he thinks he positively impacted the outcome of the power struggle in Egypt over the last two years and actually thinks his “leadership” helped create a situation about which we are happy. So what he’s telling us is that he’s not merely pleased with what he did or didn’t do, but that he thinks the current situation in Cairo in which the most populous Arab country is now run by a Muslim Brotherhood government led by a raving anti-Semite is a good thing about which he can brag on national TV.
Let me specify that I think many on the right give the president too much credit for what happened in Egypt. Sclerotic dictator Hosni Mubarak was going to fall no matter how much the U.S. tried to prop him up, so pinning the blame for the longtime U.S. ally’s collapse solely on Obama’s decision to cut him loose is to give that factor more importance than it deserves.
But Obama and Clinton do deserve serious blame for not continuing the Bush administration’s attempt to aid genuine Egyptian liberals prior to Mubarak’s fall. More importantly, they played a not unimportant role in helping to undermine the Egyptian military in its effort to prevent the country from sliding into the grip of the Muslim Brotherhood over the last year. Rather than back the military, the administration clearly signaled via threats of aid cutoffs that they should stand down and let the Brotherhood complete their power grab.
It would be one thing for the administration to approach the question of Egypt by saying that the creation of an Islamist government in Cairo with few, if any, checks on their power, endangering religious minorities, the peace with Israel and spouting hate wasn’t their fault. But for the president to actually brag about how his “leadership” played a key role in allowing Islamist Mohamed Morsi to achieve exactly the sort of power that we deplored when it was held by America’s friend Mubarak on the same weekend when tens of thousands of Egyptians returning to Tahrir Square this weekend to protest the Brotherhood putsch speaks volumes about his foreign policy agenda.
This is not merely an administration that doesn’t have a steady hand on the rudder, as its clueless approach to Syria demonstrates, but one that thinks having a hatemonger like Morsi and his Islamist crew achieving hegemony in Cairo is something they can brag about as a triumph for American foreign policy. It’s little wonder that Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah are so confident that they need not fear the impact of American “leadership” in the next four years.