One of the more interesting moments in Bill O’Reilly’s interview with President Obama (aside from the president’s strange claim that he hasn’t raised a single tax!) came when O’Reilly asked Obama if he knew the Muslim Brotherhood were the bad guys. The president didn’t answer. Or rather he gave a rambling answer that indicated that he may not know this.
Okay, you can make a case that the president shouldn’t talk at all right now about the volatile situation in Egypt (and Henry Kissinger has suggested that the administration should be “a little less frantic about getting into the news cycle”). Perhaps his answer should have been that he is not going to discuss Egypt. But he did and his circuitous non-answer was troubling.
“Is there a coherent explanation for the bizarre muddle that is the Obama administration’s policy toward Egypt?” Brett Stephens asks in today’s Wall Street Journal. Stephens says that the charitable view is that the administration is speaking out of both sides of its mouth. The uncharitable view is that is doesn’t know what is going on:
Considering that Mrs. Clinton has now endorsed the Muslim Brotherhood’s participation in negotiations with the regime, I find myself leaning toward the uncharitable view….
The worst outcome for the U.S. would be an Egypt led by the Muslim Brotherhood. The next-worst outcome is that the current regime survives by returning to its Nasserist roots as a secular but reactionary regime-populist in its economic policies, hostile to the U.S. and Israel, potentially a client of China, and in the market for a nuclear arsenal. Also conceivable is that the regime and the Brotherhood strike a devil’s bargain and rule in condominium.
Stephens has some advice for our floundering administration:
Specifically, the administration ought to understand and respect the interests of an army without which there can be no reform or democracy. It could speak up for the Egyptian technocrats, particularly the recently fired Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, who was probably Egypt’s most competent civilian leader and is now being scapegoated by Mr. Mubarak. It needs to be outspoken on behalf of genuine dissidents like Kareem Amer, a blogger who spent four years in jail for “insulting Islam” and “insulting Mubarak” and has recently gone missing.
I am about as far from an isolationist as you can get-I’m speaking for myself and am sure that we could have a lively debate on this issue at IWF. But, speaking for myself, I believe in the United States as a force for good in the world. Still, I am beginning to hope that the influence of our administration in this crisis will be nil. It doesn’t have the ability to tell friend from foe. Let’s hope that the forces for liberalism prevail in Egypt. But I am afraid they’ll have to prevail without much support from an administration that seems willing that the most pernicious force in Egypt be invited to the bargaining table.
On the American Spectator site, P. David Hornik, an Israeli blogger and translator, gives some hope that Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s vice president, is less naïve than our president
Regarding the domestic Muslim Brotherhood, Suleiman in 2006 told FBI director Robert Mueller that they had spawned “11 different Islamist extremist organizations” and that “the principal danger…was [their] exploitation of religion to influence and mobilize the public.”
As for Iran, in 2007 and 2008 Suleiman called its regime “devils” and “a significant threat to Egypt” and said “Iran is supporting Jihad and spoiling peace, and has supported extremists in Egypt previously. If they were to support the Muslim Brotherhood this would make them ‘our enemy.'”
Less heartening, though, is the fact that Suleiman already met with the banned Brotherhood, along with other groups, over the weekend and offered them a package of concessions — which they appear to have turned down contemptuously.
But Hornik also thinks that a swift capitulation from Hosni Mubarak and Suleiman, paving the way for the Brotherhood, is also likely.