Obama’s Egypt failure is becoming all the more plain, and the cultural and political Islamization of our most important Arab ally may well become a campaign issue before long
The New York Times today reports that not only are Islamists ascendant in Egypt, but their most radical fringe is faring much better in the ongoing elections than expected.
The party formed by the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s mainstream Islamist group, appeared to have taken about 40 percent of the vote, as expected. But a big surprise was the strong showing of ultraconservative Islamists, called Salafis, many of whom see most popular entertainment as sinful and reject women’s participation in voting or public life.
Analysts in the state-run news media said early returns indicated that Salafi groups could take as much as a quarter of the vote, giving the two groups of Islamists combined control of nearly 65 percent of the parliamentary seats.
Below is what I wrote back in February as Obama’s meandering and capricious Egypt policy eventually wound its way toward abandoning Hosni Mubarak, the faithful U.S. ally who had kept the peace with Israel and been a source for stability amid the political ululating that passes for leadership in the rest of the Middle East.
Once Mubarak gets on a plane and heads for the Ritz Carlton Doha, an immense power vacuum is created, the giant sucking sound of which will be animated by every fundamentalist America-hater who can be found in Egypt.
The people of Egypt will never love America. They won’t – it’s shocking for the White House – even love Obama. And once the Muslim Brotherhood is running Egypt, they will suffer, and so will we. And Egyptians will get plenty of violence.
And so it is coming to pass. The Islamists profess faith in democracy, and they will continue to do so as long as democracy shows its faithfulness toward them. Then, once they’ve consolidated their rule and gotten a rein on the military, they will thunder from the minarets about threats to Islam and round up the usual suspects.
Obama, and George W. Bush before him, did little to force the kind of reforms that were needed to slowly unscrew the pressure valve in Egypt and give democratic forces the opportunity to organize. This would have at least provided Egypt a chance to develop its democracy and avoid a sudden Islamist takeover.
Instead, Obama went to Egypt in 2009 and preached revolution:
I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere.
Sure, these are wonderful ideas. But when you go to Egypt and say to the people that their leader’s government is illegitimate, it sends them a signal about hat you will do – or won’t do – if they rise up.
What was needed over the past several years was steadfastness in support of Mubarak along with quiet, sustained and severe pressure – using the billions we send to Egypt as leverage – to force reform. Neither Bush nor Obama did this successfully.
And so now there’s a new Pharaoh in town. And he doesn’t like America, or Israel.