Worst of Both Worlds

I said that with Obama we get the corruption and lawlessness of Richard Nixon and the incompetence and fecklessness of Jimmy Carter. Last week, we saw the lawlessness with Obama’s invoking of Executive Privilege. This week, we will see the incompetence and stupidity of his foreign policy. The weeks starts off with the Muslim Brotherhood‘s candidate, Mohammed Morsi, winning the presidential election in Egypt.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi has officially won Egypt’s presidential election and will be the country’s next president, the electoral commission has announced.

Morsi picked up 13.2 million votes out of just over 26 million, giving him about 51 per cent of the vote. His competitor, Ahmed Shafik, the final prime minister under Hosni Mubarak, received 12.3 million. More than 800,000 ballots were invalidated.

The president-elected delivered a victory address on Sunday night. He spoke on state television, long a medium which demonised him and the Muslim Brotherhood. He thanked the Egyptian people for their votes, calling them “my family” and “my beloved,” and promised to work to “restore their rights.”

“I have no rights, only responsibilities,” Morsi said. “If I do not deliver, do not obey me.”

He also reached out to the army, the police, and Egypt’s intelligence services, thanking them for their work in protecting the country, and promised to “preserve” the military.

This is not, to put it mildly, a positive development for US interests, peace in the region, or freedom for the Egyptian people. In fairness, there is not much Obama could, or really should, have done about this. I suppose this election was more or less a fair one and many Egyptians perhaps prefer Islamist tyranny over the incompetent military despotism they have been enduring. Still, it was indecent for Obama to throw Mubarak under the bus by calling for an end to his rule last year. It was indecent and unwise, considering who his opposition really was.

But, I can and do fault Obama for his apparent cluelessness over what Morsi’s victory most likely means for Egypt. I am going to quote the entirety of this article in Politico.

The White House congratulated Egypt‘s president-elect Mohamed Morsi on his victory in that country’s presidential election, calling it a “milestone” in the country’s transition to democracy.

“We look forward to working together with President-elect Morsi and the government he forms, on the basis of mutual respect, to advance the many shared interests between Egypt and the United States,” press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

Morsi, a member of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood party, was announced as the winner in the election Sunday morning — but the extent of the powers of the presidency are still in flux with Egypt’s military threatening to curtain the powers of the presidency.

“We believe that it is important for President-elect Morsi to take steps at this historic time to advance national unity by reaching out to all parties and constituencies in consultations about the formation of a new government. We believe in the importance of the new Egyptian government upholding universal values, and respecting the rights of all Egyptian citizens – including women and religious minorities such as Coptic Christians.  Millions of Egyptians voted in the election, and President-elect Morsi and the new Egyptian government have both the legitimacy and responsibility of representing a diverse and courageous citizenry,” Carney said.

“The United States intends to work with all parties within Egypt to sustain our long-standing partnership as it consolidates its democracy.  We commend the Presidential Election Commission and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) for their role in supporting a free and fair election, and look forward to the completion of a transition to a democratically-elected government,” Carney said. “We believe it is essential for the Egyptian government to continue to fulfill Egypt’s role as a pillar of regional peace, security and stability.  And we will stand with the Egyptian people as they pursue their aspirations for democracy, dignity, and opportunity, and fulfill the promise of their revolution.”

I sincerely hope that this is just for sort of diplomatic nonsense that Presidents are expected to say on such occasions. Because if Obama really believes the sentiments in his Press Secretary’s statement, than he is even more naïve than the people in the Carter administration who believed the Ayatollah Khomeini would just be a religious figurehead in a democratic Iran. Indeed, I am beginning to see a frightening similarity between what is going on in Egypt and the events in Iran back in 1978, and the American president’s reactions.

Meanwhile, Israel is becoming more nervous, with good reason. In the article from the AP, Prime Minister Netanyahu tries to put a good face on the election results, but he is clearly unhappy.

Israel’s prime minister says he hopes peace with Egypt will remain intact after it chose an Islamist president.

Israel has been apprehensive about the possibility of the Muslim Brotherhood taking the top spot in neighboring Egypt, because the veteran Islamist group does not formally recognize Israel.

Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979.

Reacting to the announcement that the Muslim Brotherhood candidate won, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hoped the treaty would stand.

“Israel expects to continue cooperation with the Egyptian government on the basis of the peace agreement between the two countries, which is of interest to the two peoples and contributes to regional stability,” Netanyahu said in a statement Sunday.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has said it would maintain the treaty but would demand changes in it.

I do not think there will be open war any time soon. The Muslim Brotherhood would seek to consolidate its power in Egypt first and, as long as the military has any influence , they will prefer to keep the peace rather than start a war they know they could not win. There might be trouble a few years down the road though. If the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule does not improve Egypt’s economy, they could well decide to start trouble with Israel as a distraction. I think that it would be a very good idea for the US to limit military aid and cooperation with Egypt right now, and make it very clear, as Obama has not, that continued economic aid is contingent on the Egyptian government keeping peace with Israel and respecting the rights of religious minorities. But, this would require a more clear-headed grasp of events in the Middle east than anyone in the Obama administration has so far shown.

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