Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What Exactly is the Obama Administration Trying to Achieve in Egypt?

Usually in geopolitics there is some sort of endgame in mind when policy decisions are made.  However, I really can't discern one with this administration when it comes to Egypt, unless of course our policy is to give comfort to the Muslim Brotherhood.  According to Senator Pat Leahy, Obama has just temporarily suspended the disbursement of military aid to Egypt.  What exactly are they trying to achieve with this move?  It only seems to help the Muslim Brotherhood by showing them that the White House is sympathetic to their plight. 

Bret Stephens really puts it well when he writes that the Obama administration has more of an attitude rather than a policy and if you think things through support of the Egyptian military is our best option out of some lousy ones:

Releasing deposed President Mohammed Morsi and other detained Brotherhood leaders may be realistic, but it is not desirable—unless you think Aleksandr Kerensky was smart to release the imprisoned Bolsheviks after their abortive July 1917 uprising.

Restoring the dictatorship-in-the-making that was Mr. Morsi's elected government is neither desirable nor realistic—at least if the millions of Egyptians who took to the streets in June and July to demand his ouster have anything to do with it.

Bringing the Brotherhood into some kind of inclusive coalition government in which it accepts a reduced political role in exchange for calling off its sit-ins and demonstrations may be desirable, but it is about as realistic as getting a mongoose and a cobra to work together for the good of the mice.

What's realistic and desirable is for the military to succeed in its confrontation with the Brotherhood as quickly and convincingly as possible. Victory permits magnanimity. It gives ordinary Egyptians the opportunity to return to normal life. It deters potential political and military challenges. It allows the appointed civilian government to assume a prominent political role. It settles the diplomatic landscape. It lets the neighbors know what's what.

And it beats the alternatives. Alternative No. 1: A continued slide into outright civil war resembling Algeria's in the 1990s. Alternative No. 2: Victory by a vengeful Muslim Brotherhood, which will repay its political enemies richly for the injuries that were done to it. That goes not just for military supremo Abdel Fattah Al Sisi and his lieutenants, but for every editor, parliamentarian, religious leader, businessman or policeman who made himself known as an opponent of the Brotherhood.


There's also an argument that since our $1.3 billion in military aid hasn't gotten Gen. Sisi to take our advice, we may as well withdraw it. But why should we expect him to take bad advice? Politics in Egypt today is a zero-sum game: Either the military wins, or the Brotherhood does. If the U.S. wants influence, it needs to hold its nose and take a side.

As it is, the people who now are most convinced that Mr. Obama is a secret Muslim aren't tea party mama grizzlies. They're Egyptian secularists. To persuade them otherwise, the president might consider taking steps to help a government the secularists rightly consider an instrument of their salvation. Gen. Sisi may not need shiny new F-16s, but riot gear, tear gas, rubber bullets and Taser guns could help, especially to prevent the kind of bloodbaths the world witnessed last week.

No comments:

Post a Comment