Commentary Magazine


Bring Anne Patterson Home

Anne Patterson is the U.S. ambassador to Egypt and, fairly or unfairly, has become the target of ire for many of the Egyptian protestors. Josh Rogin and Eli Lake have a useful piece today in the Daily Beast describing how Patterson reached out to the Muslim Brotherhood and how she ended up antagonizing many of those taking to the streets to protest President Mohamed Morsi’s rule. They conclude:

Now Patterson may be up for a promotion that would take her out of Cairo; President Obama has reportedly considered nominating her to be the next assistant secretary of State for near eastern affairs. But the prospective confirmation process would likely be complicated by her recent notoriety, which could scare the White House away from going through with the move. “Even if the Egyptians blame Anne as a symbol of purported messages that in hindsight seem ill advised, one hopes the White House would not punish her for carrying out faithfully its bidding,” one former administration official said. “I do wince in reading her public remarks on June 18. I’m sure she herself would edit those remarks, if she could. But even if the Egyptian people now see her and judge her activities only in the context of those remarks, Washington can surely have a more sophisticated understanding of the role she played.”

Perhaps Patterson should not be punished—especially if she was following a policy, however misguided, that was dictated to her from above. But career diplomats should serve not to attain their highest ambitions, but to most effectively represent the United States. In that respect, they should be no different that career military officers, most of whom take assignments based on what is needed at the time and not what will look best on their resume or most please their families. Egypt is an important country, and the only question that the State Department and White House should consider is whether, given the events of the past month, Patterson is able to effectively represent the United States at this time. It would be hard to answer that question in any way other than no. In which case, it’s time for Patterson to pack, and for President Obama to appoint a seasoned diplomat without as much baggage to take her place.

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