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Obama’s Egypt Statement Gets it About Right

I’ve seen a lot of criticism of President Obama’s statement this morning on Egypt. Honestly, I’m not exactly sure what people expected him to say.

Was he supposed to declare, “Great job, Egyptian military, keep killing hundreds of people”? I don’t American presidents say things like that, or that it would be a particularly good idea.

Instead, the president took a measured approach that gave absolutely nothing to the Muslim Brotherhood – whose return to power is unacceptable for the United States – but that put the Egyptian military on notice that they need to cool it. Here is the key passage:

While Mohamed Morsi was elected President in a democratic election, his government was not inclusive and did not respect the views of all Egyptians.  We know that many Egyptians, millions of Egyptians, perhaps even a majority of Egyptians were calling for a change in course.  And while we do not believe that force is the way to resolve political differences, after the military’s intervention several weeks ago, there remained a chance for reconciliation and an opportunity to pursue a democratic path.

Instead, we’ve seen a more dangerous path taken through arbitrary arrests, a broad crackdown on Mr. Morsi’s associations and supporters, and now tragically the violence that’s taken the lives of hundreds of people and wounded thousands more.

The United States strongly condemns the steps that have been taken by Egypt’s interim government and security forces.  We deplore violence against civilians.  We support universal rights essential to human dignity, including the right to peaceful protest.  We oppose the pursuit of martial law, which denies those rights to citizens under the principle that security trumps individual freedom, or that might makes right.  And today the United States extends its condolences to the families of those who were killed and those who were wounded.

And given the depths of our partnership with Egypt, our national security interests in this pivotal part of the world and our belief that engagement can support a transition back to a democratically elected civilian government, we’ve sustained our commitment to Egypt and its people.  But while we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back.

As a result, this morning we notified the Egyptian government that we are canceling our biannual joint military exercise which was scheduled for next month.  Going forward I’ve asked my national security team to assess the implications of the actions taken by the interim government and further steps that we may take as necessary with respect to the U.S.-Egyptian relationship.

Notice Obama correctly cites “our national security interests in this pivotal part of the world” to justify his decision to essentially do nothing. Canceling a military exercise? Be serious.

He says if the slaughter continues we might do something – cut off aid. But for now, Obama recognizes that the only option really is to continue supporting the military, because there is nothing good that will fill the power vacuum if they leave the stage. While he knows that we can’t condone mass killings, he essentially is not taking strong action to stop it either.

As hard as this is to say, with hundreds and even thousands dying, I really don’t think anyone outside of Egypt can easily judge what the military is doing. Surely, the Muslin Brotherhood would eventually kill and repress even more people if allowed to regain power. Can Egypt survive with an active and officially tolerated Muslim Brotherhood, or does the group need to truly be repressed so it can’t do damage? Islamists are not democrats. They can’t really be introduced into a democratic process, as they demonstrated.

I really don’t think we know well enough the answers to these questions to second-guess the Egyptian military, as galling as the crackdown is. The world is full of examples – Russia, Iran, and China come to mind – where the failure of an unsavory regime to root out extremist opponents resulted in a far worse cataclysm and millions of deaths, not hundreds.

Maybe Egypt’s generals can be convinced that they’ll still get the result they are seeking if they tone it down. That’s what Obama was suggesting, I think.

He may be sending “mixed signals” that could encourage the Brotherhood, as some have said, but I don’t think Obama had any choice as the moral leader of our nation but to condemn this kind of violence. On the other hand, he didn’t do much about it. Which perhaps explains his final, correct thought:

America cannot determine the future of Egypt.  That’s a task for the Egyptian people.

This is not to justify Obama’s past vacillations and incompetencies with respect to his policy toward Egypt and the rest of the Middle East. But given the cards he is holding, it was the best he could do.

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23 Responses to Obama’s Egypt Statement Gets it About Right

  1. There was not much he could say. I’m glad he didn’t take sides today, but he has taken sides in the recent past, maybe in ways too subtle for most people, and that’s why we are where we are.

  2. He took a measured approach today and only after he took a less than measured one while Mubarak was still president. A day late and an Egyptian pound E£ short. Coptic churches have been burning in Egypt since the MB came to power – Did you hear moral condemnation from Washington – me neither.

  3. He said “we don’t take sides”. If we don’t take sides then why did he send his stooges McCain and Graham over there to meet with the Muslim Brotherhood and shake down the Egyptian military? He has already taken sides, he’s just too much of a coward to come straight with the American people and admit it.

    • I have no problems with what he said. I do not believe he meant a word of it. From the Cairo speech to the recent presidentially sanctioned trip by the McCain/Lindsey girls Obama has favored the MB and each time, every place, he does he endangers America and American lives.

      Further impli

      • Further implicit in what he did not say about the MB he gave the appearance that the military was fighting and killing innocent Egyptians when in fact the fight is between those who support MB and those who do not. And the MB is fighting dirty — real dirty in the churches –.

  4. I don’t think he was fair and balanced at all. Why did he not condemn the violence on both sides? He’s singled out the army and said nothing about the MB. They do the same thing with Israel. They condemn Israel for violence but forgive the Palestinians when they launch rockets. Maybe I’m missing something here, if so, please fill me in.

    • you’re exactly right. this is all about what the military did wrong. what about what the MB did wrong (just about everything)? it’s pretty obvious Obama is a MB supporter.

      and you’re right on Israel too. after Israel lets murderous thugs out of jail, what is the news? that the Obama admin is furious because Israel announced more construction in Jerusalem.

      I’d like to say it’s unbelievable, but it’s all too believable that Obama is disastrous for Israel. too bad 65% of my fellow Jewish voters didn’t see that.

  5. I read it as he’s upset the MB is getting hammered, which they should be, by the military. Radical Islamists are not civilians, they are combatants for Allah.

  6. No No No . This is all Obama/Clinton’s doing . That’s not true , of course , but that doesn’t matter . It is the narrative that matters and that narrative must be used to destroy Obama / Clinton .That is the way the left plays the game and so must the right . Obama/Clinton did it ; it’s all their fault . Who lost Egypt ? Who lostTurkey and who lost Iraq Clinton and Obama , that’s who .

    • Actually; Obama, Clinton and the other two Hawkish Chics did create this mess by inciting the Arab Spring. The State Department was actually training the Arab Spring leaders and providing them with smart phones and laptops loaded with software that would allow them to remain untraceable as they posted on social media.

  7. The law on ending aid in the event of a military coup is crystal clear and leaves no room for Obama’s equivocations. He has no right or authority to withhold the decision to end aid.

    But when did Obama need right or authority to do whatever he pleased?

  8. “But given the cards he is holding, it was the best he could do.” He dealt himself these cards with a lot of help from the most well traveled Secretary of State in our history, Pantload Clinton. These two are the architects of the total chaos that the Middle East has descended into today. The both backed the radical islamist savages element in every country and now they, and we unfortunately, are reaping the violent islamic whirlwind that Dictator Obama and Pantload Clinton have sown. Obama still hasn’t learned his lesson (narcississt’s never do because that would mean admitting he has made a mistake) because he is now sending arms to the radical islamist savages in Syria. Terminal stupidity on display by our Dear Leader.

  9. personally, I hope the military wipes out the brotherhood.
    This radical Islam thing is eventually going to be a full scale bloodbath all over the world.

  10. While this statement might seem reasonable under the circumstances, let us not forget what the probable result of the Egyptian military not staging a coup would be and who created these circumstances. While the Egyptian military is guilty of staging a coup to overthrow a “Democraticly Elected Government” the Muslim Brotherhood that won the election is not at all democratic. Their ideals are no more democratic than Adolf Hitler and the Nazis who also came to power by winning a democratic election. The Muslim Brotherhood are radical, Islamicists Fundamentalists whose idea of democracy is One Man, One Vote, One Time. More ominously, the Muslim Brotherhood were inciting public violence to destroy political opponents and religious minorities. Just ask the Coptic Christians whose churches and homes were being systematically burned and whose members were being systematically killed by Muslim Brotherhood goons if the “Democraticly Elected Government” of Egypt respected civil rights before the military coup.

    The bitter truth is that President Obama created the conditions that have made the military coup and current political violence inevitable when he betrayed Mubarak who had observed the Camp David peace accords for three decades. Obama and the three hawkish choices: Hillary Clinton, Susan Powers and Huma Wiener, actively incited the Arab Spring even though they knew with specific certainty that the Muslim Brotherhood was the only opposition groupnthat was well enough organized to win an election. For all of his faults, Mubarak was a very moderate dictator that was infinitely preferable than the Islamic fundamentalists whose goal was and is to reestablish the Califate.

    I seem to recall that aside from neoisolationists such as Ron Paul who oppose any intervention in international events, the only nationally prominent politician who had the wisdom to oppose the Arab Spring from the beginning was Governor Sarah Louis Palin.

    Palin 2016!!!!!

  11. I’m sure glad he has speech writers in his midst. The words sound plausible. However, his actions have proven time and again that his feelings do not match the words he spoke.

    The Arab Spring chickens have come home to roost so it’s a little hard to listen to all his ‘clucking’ now.