One of the scarier things about the unfolding events in Egypt and throughout the Middle East is that the people in charge of dealing with it in the United States, though they are impressive characters, lack vital experience.
The Egypt crisis demands people with broad experience in foreign affairs who understand how to manage the transition in Egypt and changes in the rest of the Arab world without allowing Islamists to seize power.
But we elected a man who – whatever one thinks of his policies and personal capabilities – had no relevant experience on his resume for assuming the role of president.
He appointed a secretary of state whose central foreign policy qualification was dodging fictitious Serb sniper bullets. OK, there’s more than that. But Hillary Clinton was made secretary of state because of her personality and stature, and for political reasons, not because of some wide-ranging knowledge she has of foreign policy.
Clinton taunted President Obama during the campaign with the famous commercial suggesting Americans would surely want her instead of him answering the “3 am phone call” revealing a sudden world crisis. But in fact, though she had been visible in the public eye longer than him, she as a junior senator was little more qualified to get the than he to get the phone.
Actually, Bill Clinton would have been far more qualified and, at 3 am, likely to be awake anyway.
The White House national security adviser, Tom Donillon, had relatively little experience in foreign affairs before becoming deputy national security adviser and then getting the top job under Obama. He is a veteran political hack who also worked for a few years in the Clinton state department, rising to become Secretary of State Warren Christopher’s chief of staff. But he spent the decade before joining Obama’s administration amassing a fortune as a lobbyist for Fannie Mae and then several of the fat cat bankers Obama enjoys pummeling.
Talleyrand and Kissinger these people are not.
We are not a nation run by “experts,” and that is by design. The criterion for power in the United States is votes, not wisdom. But it’s safe to say the Founding Fathers, who initially said only landowners should vote, believed some solid base of knowledge would have accrued to the president and his advisers before they assumed power.