How Obama--and the Media--Lost Egypt, and Israel, Too
In the first and second parts of this series on the Muslim Brotherhood’s takeover of Egypt--and what it means for the US and its allies--we noted that both the Obama administration and the mainstream media have consistently misjudged the political ambitions of the Brotherhood during and after the Tahrir Square eruption in January 2011.
And then, we further noted, every time their misjudgments were demonstrated, every time the Brotherhood scored a gain, the Obamans and the MSM responded by insisting that nothing bad was happening. In other words, the message was: yes, we always get it wrong--but trust us anyway.
So now let’s take a closer look at the most recent events in the Middle East as a whole, and how they might affect Israel. And let’s begin to consider whether or not this consistency of misjudgment is just relentless stupidity--or, in fact, part of a sinister pattern that could undermine the Jewish State’s ability to defend itself.
Today in Egypt, as radicals storm the U.S. embassy in Cairo, President Mohamed Morsi and his Brotherhood government are cementing their Islamist takeover of the nation. They are not only suppressing freedom of the press, but also installing their people in the commanding heights of the media, including the first-ever Egyptian female television news presenter to wear a hijab.
Some protestors rail against this “Brotherhoodization” of Egypt; one brave critic in Egypt accused the government of spreading “the members and supporters like a cancer in all the state's main institutions.” But turnout at these protests is low, perhaps because a top Muslim cleric has declared that it’s okay for the Islamic faithful to kill opponents of the new regime.
At the same time, the remnants of the old Hosni Mubarak government are being discredited and vilified--and will possibly suffer an even harsher fate than scorn. The former defense chief could be charged with murder--that is, for deaths that occurred during the Tahrir uprising. And his former deputy, meanwhile, is being charged with corruption.
All of these events are adding up to a 21st century Gleichschaltung; that is, a ruthless new regime is bringing society into conformity with the new order. A few Western reporters are starting to notice what this reordering means, for example, for Egyptian women, and yet they are also noticing that most Egyptian women seem comfortable with new order. In other words, it’s seems likely that Morsi enjoys the support, at least for now, of the vast bulk of the Egyptian population.
Yet we must remember that majority rule is not the only measure of a government’s virtues; other virtues include tolerance for minority rights and the willingness to live peacefully with neighbors.
It’s that last measure, peacefulness, that is of most interest to Americans--or at least it should be. After all, the US has given tens of billions of dollars in foreign aid to Egypt in an attempt to build peace in the Middle East, and yet now it seems that the political and intellectual foundations of the Egypt-Israel peace are being eroded.
Morsi notably refuses to say the name “Israel.” In other words, Morsi plays the same semantic game as any of Israel’s most determined enemies. And speaking of determined enemies, we might take note of how Hamas assesses Morsi. In an August 31 piece headlined, “Hamas hopeful about future with Morsy,” the Egypt Independent quoted a “Gaza-based policy researcher with ties to the Hamas government” as denouncing the former Mubarak government, and cheering on Morsi:
Egypt is vital to any Gaza government, whether Hamas or otherwise. Egypt is Gaza’s oxygen for the challenge to the Zionist occupation. Any positive change in Egypt, wherein someone assumes power with a popular mandate, makes a huge difference. It serves the resistance in Gaza and helps Hamas. Egyptians as a people support the Palestinian cause and will offer help.
While it is true that the Egyptian government recently coordinated some security sweeps in the Sinai peninsula with the Israeli government--Egypt is, after all, still receiving billions in US aid--the plain fact is that the Egypt-Israeli relationship is cold, at best.
The headline atop an opinion piece in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz this month read: “The Egypt-Israel peace treaty is dead.” Noted the author, an Egyptian:
33 years after the peace treaty, Israel still doesn’t exist on official Egyptian maps. When young Egyptian students study geography, they find only Palestine on their state-printed books. Egypt has not canceled a law [that] was made before the peace treaty which criminalizes Zionism, and punishes any Egyptian Zionist by removing his citizenship.
Those anti-Israel provisions were all in place, the author added, under the previous Mubarak regime; the change is that, unlike Mubarak, neither Morsi nor the Brotherhood has ever so much as pretended to be a friend to Israel.
Still, unless there’s a huge demonstration or riot, there’s little worldwide press attention to domestic issues within Egypt.
Foreign policy issues, however, are a far different matter. The world media are, in fact, paying close attention to Morsi’s foreign policy, which is changing profoundly.
And yet that same media--including the American media--seem to be viewing Morsi’s changes through the prism of mid-20th-century Third World anti-colonialism, as opposed to considering the security of the US, Israel, or the world. That is, many in the MSM are actually cheerleading for Morsi, while others simply remain quiet, choosing to overlook the ominous implications of Morsi’s new tack.
In late August, Morsi visited Tehran, initiating the first contact between top leaders of Egypt and Iran since the Shah was in power back in the 1970s; we might note, indeed, that previously Mubarak had been notably hostile to Iran. But now, with Morsi, things are different, and the new Egyptian leader traveled to Tehran to enjoy the embrace the ayatollahs.
The occasion was a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which counts 120 countries as members, including such major powers as India, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia--and, of course, Egypt and Iran. During that Tehran meeting, NAM unanimously endorsed Iran’s “peaceful” nuclear program; the resolution, as the New York Times put it, “amounted to the strongest expression of support for Iran’s nuclear energy rights in its showdown with the West.” In other words, the NAM vote--with Egypt’s leader now concurring--was big deal.
Of course, a few other voices saw the NAM vote not only as a big deal, but also as a cause for alarm. In Israel, for example, Isi Leibler, writing in the Jerusalem Post, declared:
The willingness of so many countries to attend such a conference in Tehran at this time and unanimously endorse the ayatollah’s nuclear policies clearly demonstrates the abysmal failure of US President Barack Obama’s initial policy of “engaging” with Iran and his subsequent decision to impose sanctions and isolate the rogue state.
Yet the Obama administration chose to keep notably cool. Before Morsi’s trip, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland mentioned blandly that the gathering of dignitaries in Tehran “does not send a good signal”--not exactly the most forceful declaration of opposition.
Meanwhile, amidst reports of increasing Israeli agitation over Iran, the Obama administration shared its newest diplomatic strategy with the New York Times, resulting in a story on the front page of its September 2 edition, headlined, “To Calm Israel, U.S. Offers Ways to Restrain Iran.” In other words, keeping Israel “calm” seems to be the Obama goal--a goal that is not necessarily the same as stopping the Iranian nuclear juggernaut.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration can count on the MSM to support such a passive and permissive policy toward Egypt, because the MSM are choosing to see Morsi as an exciting, iconoclastic figure, bravely shaking off the pro-US policies of his predecessor. In the minds of the MSM, that’s either a good thing--or a very good thing.
For example, in first reporting the news of Morsi’s trip to Tehran back on August 18, the Associated Press’ Maggie Michael described the trip as a “thaw” between Egypt and Iran. “Thaw,” of course, is the short headline-friendly word used to describe a rapprochement, usually considered to be long overdue, viz. the US-China “thaw” of the early 70s. The AP’s Michael quoted one Egyptian political expert as saying of the trip, “This really signals the first response to a popular demand and a way to increase the margin of maneuver for Egyptian foreign policy in the region.” The quote continued, “Morsi's visits . . . show that Egypt’s foreign policy is active again in the region.” We might note that this Egyptian expert, obviously admiring of Morsi and his trip to Tehran, was the only expert the AP relied upon to analyze the foreign policy impact of the trip.
Time magazine’s Tony Karon added this even punchier analysis of Morsi’s trip: “It was always expected that a more democratic Egypt would break the Mubarak habit of carrying water for U.S. regional agendas and instead pursue an independent foreign policy more reflective of the popular will.” Translation: Mubarak was servile to the US, while Morsi is independent--so good riddance to Mubarak, and hurrah for Morsi!
Even more biased in favor of Morsi was the Washington Post’s Ernesto Londono. In an August 27 story, Londono’s report started out evenly: “A decision by Egypt’s new president to travel to Tehran for a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement this week reflects a major foreign policy shift for the Arab world’s most populous nation.” But then Londono finished his sentence with these revealing words:“after decades of subservience to Washington.” [Emphasis added.] Once again, the message is clear--opposition to the US means true independence for Egypt.
And lest anybody miss the ideological point, Londono added, “Analysts described Morsi’s trip to Iran as a clear sign that Egypt will no longer act as a U.S. lackey in the foreign policy realm.” Note: “lackey.”
Even more direct was a Post columnist, Walter Pincus, who has held down the left end of the newspaper for most of the last half-century. In the 60s and 70s, Pincus served two stints for the Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; that is, during the era dominated by Committee Chairman William Fulbright, a fierce critic of the “arrogance of power” that he espied in US policies, including America’s close relationship with Israel. Curiously, Pincus’ two stints of public service to liberal Democrats on Capitol Hill are omitted from his official Post biography. In a September 3 piece that echoed Fulbright’s oppositional style, Pincus ripped the idea that Uncle Sam had any business trying to influence either Morsi or NAM:
The idea that the U.S. government knows best about what other sovereign countries should do in their relations with Washington’s enemies — and doubts foreign leaders can handle themselves on the international stage — reminds me of the worst of American bullying during the Cold War. Back then, U.S. leaders warned members of the Non-Aligned Movement against having any dealings with the Soviet Union or communists in general. The “you are with us or against us” attitude was last employed with negative effect by President George W. Bush.
For the Beltway cognoscenti, of course, Pincus’ mention of Bush 43 shuts down the argument. If Bush was for it, then any civilized Georgetowner or Dupont Circler must be against it.
In fact, while the Post boasts a conservative or two on its roster, the deep structure of the paper is still, of course, decidedly liberal and liberationist in its view of the Third World. For example, there’s Karen DeYoung, who has been at the Post since 1975 and now holds the title of associate editor, as well as senior national security correspondent. So it’s no wonder that DeYoung writes for the paper whenever she wants to, and as cited in Part One of this series, her August 13 story on Morsi’s strike against the old military leadership left over from Mubarak, headlined “From alarm to relief in Washington amid Egypt’s military shakeup,” served as a prime example of a story that was seemingly aimed at reassuring readers that a) everything is fine in Egypt, and b) the Obama administration is handling things in an equally fine manner.
So what else should we know about DeYoung? We might be interested to learn that she seems never to have met a met a Third World liberation movement that she didn’t like. Back in 1980, she commented on the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, and others of that stripe, while speaking to the far-left Institute for Policy Studies: “Most journalists now, most Western journalists at least, are very eager to seek out guerrilla groups, leftist groups, because [reporters] assume they must be the good guys.” It was during that same year, 1980, we might recall, that conservative journalists Arnaud de Borchgrave and Robert Moss published The Spike, a best-selling novel about the willingness--and eagerness--of Western journalists to spike the ominous truth about communist subversion around the world.
Twenty years later, in 2000, DeYoung reported that Colombia’s FARC, listed by the US government as a terrorist group, was actually something much different. FARC’s real interests, she wrote, were “land distribution, social benefits and political access for the rural poor.” Yes, it’s true, she admitted, that FARC had an “early alliance” with the Colombian Communist Party, but nonetheless, she maintained, it “has always been an essentially rural movement.” We might note, of course, that plenty of communists have flourished in rural areas; back in the 30s, Mao Zedong’s Chinese communists billed themselves to friendly Western journalists as “agrarian reformers,” and so too, in the 60s, did the Vietnamese communists.
We might note, as well, that this sort of leftist worldview is almost always hostile to Israel. In the reckoning of those who romanticized the Sandinistas, the FARC, and various Asian communists--back when they were still real communists--the state of Israel is just another colonialist power, a last vestige of European imperialism and American hegemonism in the Middle East. And so, as we have seen, someone such as Morsi of Egypt is regarded sympathetically--not because Western reporters love Islamic domestic policy, but because Western reporters loathe the West’s foreign policy.
Returning to the present, for its part, the Obama administration was obviously not too displeased by Morsi’s visit to Tehran; the Egyptian president has been invited to visit Washington DC on September 23, even as the Obama administration plans to relieve $1 billion in Egyptian debt and help Morsi’s government secure more than $5 billion in new loans. And now come reports that the Obama administration is trying to help the Egyptians buy next-gen submarines from Germany. So while it would be wrong to say that the Brotherhood man has reaped a $6 billion reward for visiting Tehran, it would certainly not be wrong to say that the Obama administration has not held the Tehran trip against him.
And always, always, always, we hear the official reassurance, from the Obamans, that Morsi is a good guy, all faithfully recorded by friendly journalists. As the New York Times’ Steven Lee Myers reported on September 3:
In fact, American officials say they have been surprised by how open Mr. Morsi and his advisers have been to economic reforms, with a sharp focus on creating jobs. “They sound like Republicans half the time,” one administration official said, referring to leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Yet even as the Obamans were seeking to further normalize Morsi to an American audience, the view from Israel was far different: On the previous day, September 2, a headline above Barry Rubin’s op-ed in the Jerusalem Post declared, “Egypt kicks sand in Obama’s face.” As Rubin, an Israeli defense analyst, explained:
This is all you need to know: The US government asked its good buddy Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy to inspect an Iranian ship suspected of carrying arms to Syria while it passed through the Suez Canal. Remember that to do so is arguably in Egypt’s own interest since Cairo is supporting the rebels while Tehran backs the regime. The Egyptian government, despite three decades of massive US aid, licensing to produce advanced American tanks and other equipment, strategic backing and an invitation to Washington to meet Obama – refused.
In other words, all those billions in foreign aid have given the US precious little leverage on Egypt. Yet, as we have seen, Morsi is coming to Obama’s Washington DC to collect billions--that we know of--in aid, loans, and debt relief.
Moreover, even as the Obama administration is helping Egypt, the Obamans are actively hindering Israel. Time magazine’s Aaron J. Klein and Karl Vick scored a scoop when they detailed US efforts to thwart an Israeli strike on Iran, throttling back on a joint military exercise scheduled for October:
Well-placed sources in both countries have told TIME that Washington has greatly reduced the scale of U.S. participation, slashing by more than two-thirds the number of American troops going to Israel and reducing both the number and potency of missile interception systems at the core of the joint exercise.
And so, for example, the Israelis will not be allowed access to certain kinds of highly sensitive radar that might allow the Israelis more anticipation. As Time puts it, the embargo “serves to inhibit any Israeli decision to ‘go it alone’ against Iran.” As the reporters conclude:
Difficult as it may be to imagine U.S. decision-makers holding back information that could save Israeli lives, both by giving them more time to reach a shelter, or their interceptors to lock onto and destroy an incoming Shahab-3, the risk looms in the complex calculus of Israeli officials mulling an attack on Iran.
In other words, the US is denying Israel data that might be vital for its safety. As one senior Israeli military official told Time, “Basically what the Americans are saying is, ‘We don’t trust you.’”
So let’s step back for a second: How does it happen that the US government trusts Morsi, even when he is untrustworthy, and yet puts so little trust in Israel--regarded by the vast majority of Americans as trusted ally? How did we end up in a situation where the MSM seem more interested in cheering for anti-American policies and less interested--less than uninterested is more like it--in seeing US interests advanced?
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Next: None Dare Call It Treason, fifty years later.