Presidential Policy: Does It Make the Grade?, James Carafano, PhD
Source Link: Family Security Matters
Last week, the White House acted like it dodged a bullet when President Mubarak of Egypt stepped down. It has no reason to be sanguine. Strong leadership from the United States is more important than ever. In regards to Egypt, the priority for U.S. policy should be to set clear expectations for a responsible government. Whatever regime emerges in Cairo, it should respect the freedom and human rights of its own citizens, particularly those of women and Egypt’s Christian minority, which comprises about 10 percent of Egypt’s population.
The U.S. should also reaffirm the importance of Egyptian compliance with its legal obligations under its 1979 peace treaty with Israel and of ensuring the right of passage of commerce through the Suez Canal. Engaging with the new regime in Egypt is just one task for appropriately exercising American leadership. Rather than letting the Administration “off the hook,” Mubarak’s departure marks the beginning of Washington having to up its game to keep with the changes of this part of the world.
Dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood is going to be a particularly thorny problem for the Administration. Heritage Middle East expert Jim Phillips warns,
“Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood pursues a radical long-term Islamist agenda while masking its hostility to freedom and genuine democracy with self-serving tactical rhetorical moderation. The Obama Administration should patiently seek to advance freedom and stability in Egypt through a transition to a more representative government that gives the Muslim Brotherhood the smallest possible opportunity to hijack the reform process. The worst possible outcome of the present crisis would be to open the door to a takeover by a totalitarian Islamist group hostile to the United States while working to replace President Mubarak’s authoritarian regime.”
Dealing with the Brotherhood could a real problem for the Administration, particularly since so far the White House has tried to downplay the threat the Brotherhood presents. For example, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) testified that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is “largely secular.”
In reality, the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928, is the Middle East’s oldest and most influential Islamist movement. Outlawed in Egypt since 1954, when it attempted to assassinate former President Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Brotherhood retains the long-term goal of creating an Islamist state and implementing Sharia law. An offshoot of the Brotherhood, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, assassinated President Anwar Sadat in 1981, perpetrated a series of terrorist attacks in Egypt in the 1990s, and became part of al-Qaeda. Another offshoot, the Palestinian Islamist extremist group Hamas, won elections in Gaza in 2006, staged a coup in 2007 to transform Gaza into a terrorist base, and remains committed to destroying Israel.
The DNI’s office later issued a statement to “clarify” General Clapper’s testimony, but the original testimony—especially when placed in the context of Panetta’s claims and President Obama’s speech—shows an Administration that has far too much faith in the power of the President’s rhetoric and not nearly enough concern about our enemies in the Middle East.
The challenges that are posed by Egypt are far from over. Nevertheless, watching how the White House handled the crisis—reminds us of two truisms on Obama’s approach to foreign policy and national security. The first is that this is a White House uncomfortable with crisis. The Administration at first struggled to find a policy and then appeared more worried about appearing to be on top of things rather than exercising American leadership and get ahead of the crisis. Second, once again we have conclusive evidence that the Obama Doctrine is a disaster that needs to be abandoned.
Even the president’s remarks trumpeting the fall of Mubarak were deeply flawed. “In his speech on Mubarak’s resignation Friday, President Obama hailed the Egyptian protesters as an example to the world and its freedom movements,” notes Heritage analyst Helle Dale.
“However, he entirely failed to acknowledge the role of Iran’s Green Movement, which set a gold standard for courage when protesters rose up after the contested elections that returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power. In other words, Obama Administration policy remains to support freedom movements—when they have succeeded.”
For such a poor display of American leadership Obama earns a grade of “C” for the week—for we have seen better.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is a leading expert in defense affairs, intelligence, and strategy, military operations and homeland security at the Heritage Foundation.