President Obama on Egypt: No coup; no strategy
T.J. O'Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker...
RANCHO SANTA FE, Ca., August 20, 2013 – As chaos and killings return to the streets of Egypt, the aftermath of the Arab Spring has lost its political romance. Correspondingly, our Nation’s lack of a definitive foreign policy, particularly with respect to the Middle East, now stands front and center on the world stage. It’s time to explore what can be done to correct that.
President Obama has been consistent in his approach: respond rather than lead; and promote confusion rather than clarity. These may seem to be harsh criticism, but let’s examine the record.
The Mubarak Legacy
As had past Administrations (dating back to the Reagan years), President Obama’s Administration supported Egyptian President Mubarak’s regime which, for 37 years, had functioned more as a dictatorship than a democracy.
Mubarak assumed the Presidency in 1981 after the assignation of Anwar Sadat. While he was “re-elected” in 1987, 1993 and 1999, it was accomplished through referendums in which no one was allowed to run against him. Then, when the Egyptian Constitution was amended in 2005, Mubarak “won” a heavily-tainted election, after which his opponent was arrested and imprisoned (ostensibly for forgery).
The United States tolerated this political masquerade because Mubarak remained loyal to its interests.
- He opposed Islamic fundamentalism and favored a diplomatic relationship with Israel, which created some stability in the Middle East;
- His government controlled the Suez Canal and allowed it to remain open to U.S. commerce;
- The majority of the monetary assistance the United States rendered to Egypt was in the form of military aid, which inured to the benefit of America’s military-industrial complex;
- Egypt provided ongoing over-flight rights to the United States;
- It permitted troop pre-positioning at Cairo West Airport; and
- It provided intelligence with respect to Al-Qaeda operations, etc.
Then, when the Arab Spring began to gather momentum, the Obama Administration reversed course. Once it became apparent that Mubarak would fall from power, President Obama called for him to step down.
Had the interests that made our country turn a blind eye toward Mubarak’s autocratic rule gone away? No. Did President Obama have a different plan to “provide for the common Defence (sic) and the general Welfare of the United States,” which Article I, Section 8 prescribes for one of the Executive Branch’s counterparts (i.e., the Legislative Branch)? Apparently not.
On May 19, 2011, President Obama delivered a speech at the U.S. State Department in which he praised Hillary Clinton’s work in the Middle East and provided a vague and sometimes conflicting overview of our Nation’s position with regard to Egypt.
A few pages into his speech, the President said, “The status quo is not sustainable.” Shortly thereafter, he stated, “…after decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.” Those phrases suggest that change is inevitable and that the President may have a plan for the region (which is neither his responsibility nor within his authority).
The President then softened his position by saying: “…we must proceed with a sense of humility. It is not America that put people into the streets of Tunis and Cairo—it was the people themselves who launched these movements, and must determine their outcome. Not every country will follow our particular form of representative democracy, and there will be times when our short term interests do not align perfectly with our long term vision of the region (emphasis added). But we can—and will—speak out for a set of core principles—principles that have guided our response to the events over the past six months.”
While he acknowledged that “not every country will follow our particular form of representative democracy,” he then set forth core principles that sounded remarkably like those of our Nation. The President continued:
“The United States opposes the use of violence and repression against the people of the region.
“We support a set of universal rights. Those rights include free speech; the freedom of peaceful assembly; freedom of religion; equality for men and women under the rule of law; and the right to choose your own leaders…
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