Obama’s Egypt Blunder

No one should be surprised that nation-building in Egypt is hard but people should wonder why it’s taking Obama so long to get right.

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Thanks to the excellent reporting of people like The New York Times' David D. Kirkpatrick, it is fair to question the narrative taking root concerning events in Egypt, which holds that peaceful protestors allied with the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted President Mohamed Morsi are being cut to ribbons by the Egyptian military.

There is plenty of blame to go around – and some of it belongs in Washington.

From the beginning, the Obama administration has been feckless in its attempts to help Egypt right itself after a popular uprising, which had tacit U.S. support, forced Hosni Mubarak from power just about two years ago. With little to go on, the president threw his support behind the new government, controlled by members of the formerly banned Muslim Brotherhood, with little apparent concern for the eventual outcome. The sale and delivery of U.S. military equipment was allowed to continue with no thought, except from a few members of Congress like GOP Sens. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Rand Paul of Kentucky that those weapons might eventually be used against the Egyptian people themselves or America's allies in the region.

[Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

Now, with thousands wounded or dead in Cairo, Alexandria, and throughout Egypt, the White House is attempting to show leadership. It's too little, too late.

In his press conference Obama upbraided the Egyptians for failing to pursue a policy of "reconciliation" after Morsi was removed from power by the Egyptian military, which took the position that the direction in which he was taking the country violated what little constitutional freedoms existed and would, instead, install an Islamic theocracy in halls of power.

"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," Obama said, adding that "our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back."

[VOTE: Was Obama's Response to Egypt's Violence Enough?]

Funny how these same concerns were not heard as Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood associates were consolidating their power. Interim President Adly Mansour, the former chief of Egypt's highest court, responded to Obama's remarks saying they would only "strengthen the violent armed groups and encourage them in their methods inimical to stability and the democratic transition."

Nation-building is not easy. It has proven to be difficult in Afghanistan and Iraq and it is proving as difficult in Egypt. President Obama errs when he condemns the interim Mansour government for failing to pursue a policy of reconciliation when his own administration had failed to do likewise, instead standing to the side as Coptic Christians and other religious minorities were terrorized and persecuted under the Morsi regime. The transition from tyranny to democracy is a difficult one. Even the United States did not get it right at the beginning, the Articles of Confederation failing to produce a viable nation. Even after the Constitution was ratified, the Shays Rebellion, the Alien and Sedition Acts and slavery continued to pose real threats to the new government seated on the banks of the Potomac River. No one should be surprised that it is any more difficult on the banks of the Nile; people should wonder however why it is taking the Obama administration so long to get it right.

  • Read Brad Bannon: Questions About Hillary Clinton, Rand Paul and the 2016 Presidential Field
  • Read Pat Garofalo: Obama Keeps U.S. Aid Flowing to Egypt Despite Bloody Crackdown
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