Our Deeds in Egypt Show the Darkness and Folly of Our Foreign Policy

Yet again America finds it necessary to overthrow another elected government, earning the hatred of its people and the scorn of others disgusted by our hypocrisy. As usual, the neocons in the chorus urge us to war. Our strategy is the anti-Boyd: add to and empower our enemies, discourage our friends and thin their ranks.

“We are what we repeatedly do.”
— Summary of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics by Will Durant in his Story of Philosophy (1926)


  1. Obama explains what America has become
  2. al Qaeda says “I told you so”
  3. Crusaders ‘R Us
  4. Hidden history, important and ignored
  5. For More Information
  6. Obama BFs our allies, Egypt’s generals
  7. Another Perspective on these events

(1) President Obama explains what America has become

Remarks by the President on the Situation in Egypt, 15 August 2013 — Meaningless drivil mixed with falsehoods, concluding with a trivial slap on the wrist to the military junta after their coup (“coup” being a truth the President cannot utter).

We appreciate the complexity of the situation. While Mohamed Morsi was elected President in a democratic election, his government was not inclusive and did not respect the views of all Egyptians. We know that many Egyptians, millions of Egyptians, perhaps even a majority of Egyptians were calling for a change in course. And while we do not believe that force is the way to resolve political differences, after the military’s intervention several weeks ago, there remained a chance for reconciliation and an opportunity to pursue a democratic path.

Instead, we’ve seen a more dangerous path taken through arbitrary arrests, a broad crackdown on Mr. Morsi’s associations and supporters, and now tragically the violence that’s taken the lives of hundreds of people and wounded thousands more.

The United States strongly condemns the steps that have been taken by Egypt’s interim government and security forces. We deplore violence against civilians. We support universal rights essential to human dignity, including the right to peaceful protest. We oppose the pursuit of martial law, which denies those rights to citizens under the principle that security trumps individual freedom, or that might makes right.

And today the United States extends its condolences to the families of those who were killed and those who were wounded.

And given the depths of our partnership with Egypt, our national security interests in this pivotal part of the world and our belief that engagement can support a transition back to a democratically elected civilian government, we’ve sustained our commitment to Egypt and its people. But while we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back. As a result, this morning we notified the Egyptian government that we are canceling our biannual joint military exercise which was scheduled for next month.

(2) A look at the larger picture: al Qaeda says “I told you so”

Al Qaeda leader’s ‘I told you so’ on Egypt“, Peter Bergen (CNN National Security Analyst), op-ed at CNN, 15 August 2013 — Opening:

Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian-born leader of al Qaeda, has seen this movie before: An Islamist party does well at the polling booth only to be overthrown by a military coup that then plunges the country into chaos. This is what happened in Algeria in 1991. Tens of thousands died in the subsequent Algerian civil war that ripped the nation apart during the 1990s.

The lesson that Zawahiri drew from the Algerian war was that participating in democratic elections was strictly for suckers; far better to seize power through violence and then impose Taliban-style sharia law because “the crusaders” and their allies in the Arab world would never allow the emergence of a true Islamist state.

In 1991, the same year that the Algerian civil war began, Zawahiri released his first book, “The Bitter Harvest.” The book was a vicious diatribe against the Muslim Brotherhood and other similar Islamist parties for participating in “democracies, elections and parliaments.”

Now Zawahiri gets to say “I told you so.”

More detail on the “I told you so” — “Zawahiri rebukes Muslim Brotherhood for trusting democracy“, report by Bill Roggio, Long War Journal, 3 August 2013 — Excerpt:

Just one day after the Egyptian military overthrew the elected Muslim Brotherhood government, Shabaab was at the forefront of those arguing that the Brotherhood made the mistake of attempting to gain power and impose sharia, or Islamic law, by following the democratic process. Shabaab’s argument was predictable; it reflected al Qaeda’s primary complaint with the Brotherhood. Although both groups seek to impose sharia and establish a caliphate, the Brotherhood has attempted to attain its goal through the political process, but al Qaeda has said this can be done only by waging jihad, or holy war.

Yesterday, in a statement released on al Qaeda-linked forums, Ayman al Zawahiri made the same argument that Shabaab and jihadists made immediately after the Egyptian coup. Below are excerpts of Zawahiri’s speech, which was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. I believe these excerpts get to the core of al Qaeda’s disagreement with the Brotherhood.

Excerpt from the translation:

What happened is the greatest proof of the failure of taking the democratic path to reach power in Islam. What happened was unprecedented in terms of its magnitude and ugliness, for it was larger and uglier than the failure in Algeria and Palestine. This time, the Brotherhood reached the presidency of the republic and the ministry, and they got the majority in the senate and Shura [consultative] councils, and despite all that they were removed from power by force.

You have ignored two extremely dangerous matters in the conflict: The first is the creed-based nature of the conflict, and that it is a conflict between infidelity and faith, between surrendering to the rule of Allah, glorified be He, or giving it to someone other than Allah; it is not a conflict between political parties that are bound by the nationalist unity.

The second matter you ignored is the actual nature of the conflict. It is not a conflict between competing nationalist parties, but it is a conflict between Crusaderhood and Zionism on the one side and Islam on the other.

I do not say this to take pleasure in the misery of others, may Allah forbid it. But I am describing the disease to get to the description of the medicine. I call every honorable, loyal person who loves the victory of Islam to unify the words of the Muslims around the word of tawhid [monotheism]. I call upon all my brothers to shun all methods and ways that oppose the rule of Shariah, and to unite in a mass preaching and inciting movement so that Shariah is ruling and not ruled, commanding and not commanded, leading and not led, and that the Ummah rejects the surrender treaties and normalization with Israel, and the security arrangements with America and all the pictures of perversion from Islam and submission to its enemies.

I call the soldiers of the Qur’an to wage the battle of the Qur’an that the martyr Imam Hassan al-Banna had called for.

(3) Crusaders ‘R Us

(a) Zawahiri has good reason to call us “crusaders”. Not just our actions, but reading the words of those justifying US policy — and urging even more of the same. Americans spewing hatred. Urging war. Mocking democracy. Working every day to convince Muslims that our words are lies, our intentions fixed and inimical to them. More links in the post-WWW2 chain of US support for tyrants overthrowing elected governments. Smooth words over evil: “The Perils of Proportionality“, Michael Rubin, Commentary, 16 August 2013 — Excerpt:

One of the biggest differences between the right and the left today is that the left always demonizes power, while the right recognizes that power can be used for good or for ill. Too many in the media and the State Department suffer from the David and Goliath syndrome in which they bestow sympathy and perhaps even a sense of justice on the weakest side, regardless of its beliefs and goals.

This was the case with Occupy Wall Street, an amorphous group with a huge sense of entitlement but no defined ideology besides the nihilistic. And, when it comes to terrorism, too many in the West bend over backwards to comprehend the terrorists’ point of view. There are two general ways to interpret terrorist motivation: One is through the prism of grievance and the other through an understanding of religious ideology.

If analysts embrace the idea that grievance motivates terrorism, then the natural policy response is to try to address that grievance and force concessions from the stronger side. The reality of Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Shabaab, Hezbollah, the Taliban, and other Islamist movements, however, is that grievance is often window-dressing for ideological totalitarianism.

… So what should the United States do? So long as the Muslim Brotherhood seeks to turn back the clock, impose its hateful and intolerant ideology upon Egyptians of all religiosities and religions, and refuses to abide by the pathway to transitional elections, and so long as it continues to fight in the streets, then it should suffer the consequences of its actions. And if those consequences result in exponentially higher Brotherhood casualties than army casualties, then so be it. That is the truest path to peace.

(b) New York Times: Complicit in the destruction of Egyptian democracy“, Patrick L. Smith, Salon, 18 August 2013 — “U.S. policy is clear: No democracy for Islamic majorities. Why does the media parrot Obama’s Orwellian double talk?” Excerpt:

Over just a few days we have watched the deliberate sabotaging of the first elected government in Egyptian history. There is now no chance of restoring the government of President Mohamed Morsi: The savagery of the army and police as they act against Morsi’s supporters is intended to destroy any such prospect, and it has. It is likely we have also witnessed the end of the Arab Spring, the two-year-old movement that brought the promise of representative government to the Middle East. Egypt’s next story will be a new story, and the events of 2011 will take their place as a prelude, a shard of history.

Even as Egypt’s death toll since Wednesday climbs toward a thousand, a larger moment passed this week, it seems to me. America has reached the limit of its capacity to accommodate a new era, one requiring new thinking and new perspectives and lively imaginations. It simply cannot manage it. Washington’s business through all the Cold War decades was to destroy democracies (democracies that were supposedly not democracies) in favor of dictators (dictators who were supposedly not dictators). The only difference between that time and ours is that one is confident now that the American project will fail if America fails to alter course.

(c) More of the same:

  • Sad words pointing to a grim future for America: “It’s Time to Work With Egypt’s Generals“, Martin Indyk, Foreign Policy, 4 July 2013 — “In a turbulent time, Cairo’s military is the best friend the United States has got.”

(4) Hidden history, important and ignored

Sudden Improvements in Egypt Suggest a Campaign to Undermine Morsi“, New York Times, 10 July 2013

…since the military ousted President Mohamed Morsi, life has somehow gotten better for many people across Egypt: Gas lines have disappeared, power cuts have stopped and the police have returned to the street.

The apparently miraculous end to the crippling energy shortages, and the re-emergence of the police, seems to show that the legions of personnel left in place after former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011 played a significant role — intentionally or not — in undermining the overall quality of life under the Islamist administration of Mr. Morsi.

(5) For More Information

(a) Articles about the situation in Egypt:

(b) Posts about Egypt:

  1. Important information about the riots in Egypt, 30 January 2011
  2. Why do we fear the rioters in Egypt?, 30 January 2011
  3. Sources of information about the situation in Egypt, 6 February 2011
  4. For Independence Day Egypt shows us how little love for democracy remains in America, 4 July 2013

(6) Obama speaks in support our allies,Egypt’s generals


(7) Another Perspective on the events in Egypt, our allies in action

This piece is cross-posted from Fabius Maximus with permission.

One Response to "Our Deeds in Egypt Show the Darkness and Folly of Our Foreign Policy"

  1. McWatt   August 20, 2013 at 9:46 am

    As America itself proved 150 years ago the results are for the best when countries stay unentangled in another countries internal political turmoil.

    What would have happened to us if France or England had successfully intervened on behalf of the Confederate States of America? They could have posed themselves as morally justified to intervene. After all we had slaughtered 655,000 of our own people. Had they intervened then Grant would not have been able to fully pardon all belligerent soldiers. Lincoln would not have been able to ask all citizens to "bind up the nations wounds". We would still be "fighting" the effects of an "unresolved" conflict rather than the conflict being regulated to academic studies and books and papers about what happened and why.

    It is best, for all parties, to stay out of the bar fight, and let the aggrieved parties settle for themselves the source of their conflict. It will be bloody, it may be an unfair fight, but it must be resolved one way or the other for the region to move forward.