On Fox yesterday, Charles Krauthammer gave President Obama good marks for his remarks Egypt. That makes me feel a little better about what looks like a pretty inadequate response from the White House, but I want to point out something I think the president got very wrong.
I can’t find a link to his remarks, but the president said something to the effect that increasing human freedom is “inevitable.” It isn’t, as history shows all too clearly.
I am pulling for the president to do the right thing in this crisis, though I’d feel a lot better if he hadn’t included the Muslim Brotherhood on the guest list when he made his mushy speech two years ago in Cairo. This shows a naïve attitude that one can only hope has been dispelled by events.
The Wall Street Journal has an interesting symposium on Egypt. Maajid Nawaz, who heads a counterterrorism think tank and spent several years as a prisoner in Egypt for Islamist activism (since rejected), minimizes the threat:
The Brotherhood realizes that this uprising wasn’t theirs to begin with, and that the new Egypt-more patriotic, pluralistic and inclusive-would likely reject a Brotherhood attempt at usurpation. Unlike Amr Moussa (the head of the Arab League), Mohamed ElBaradei (the former international bureaucrat), and Ayman Nour (the liberal party leader and another former cellmate of mine), no one in the Brotherhood possesses the stature to unite the nation behind them. There is no Khomeini-like Islamist figure to hijack this revolution.
In a post-Mubarak Egypt, the Brotherhood would likely increase its presence in parliament, but no Brotherhood figure is likely to win the presidency or a key cabinet post. As the Brotherhood becomes an increasingly legitimate force, though, policy makers in Egypt and beyond should pressure it to abandon its remaining extremist positions, such as its insistence that only a Muslim male may lead the nation.
“Increasingly legitimate force”…that is a concept that should give pause. So should Mr. Nawaz’s cheery notion that the Brotherhood can be pressured into abandoning its “remaining extremist positions.” Amr Bargisi, an Egyptian, in the same symposium is less optimistic than Mr. Nawaz, insisting that the country is headed for radicalism or repression.
Daniel Pipes over at NRO has this sober assessment:
The U.S. government has a vital role helping Middle Eastern states transit from tyranny to political participation without Islamists hijacking the process. George W. Bush had the right idea in 2003 in calling for democracy but he ruined this effort by demanding instant results. Barack Obama initially reverted to the failed old policy of making nice with tyrants; now he is myopically siding with the Islamists against Mubarak. He should emulate Bush but do a better job, understanding that democratization is a decades-long process that requires the inculcation of counter-intuitive ideas about elections, freedom of speech, and the rule of law.
The Iranian revolution was the end of Jimmy Carter (Victor Davis Hanson sees an “eerie” similarity with now and 1979). This one could damage Obama. I keep hoping that either President Obama or the Egyptians will do the right thing and spare the world a radicalized Egypt.
This Just In: John McCain is meeting with the president today, and he has a message: Elbaradei is not a friend of the United States.