While one can certainly sympathize with the idea of letting an elected parliament take office, that’s not necessarily such a clear call in strategic terms. The parliament — which will write the constitution and thus define the powers of the president — is almost 75 percent rabidly anti-American and antisemitic. (I don’t write that last word lightly, but it is quite accurate.) Imagine if this situation had arisen in Iran in 1979 with the Iranian military refusing to turn over power to the forces led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Would it have been wise for Washington to demand that this be done as soon as possible?
Yet, here is Defense Secretary Leon Panetta calling on Egypt’s military in a manner that “highlighted the need to move forward expeditiously with Egypt’s political transition, including conducting new legislative elections as soon as possible.” Senator Patrick J. Leahy has called for withholding U.S. aid to Egypt, saying, “I would not want to see the U.S. government write checks for contracts with Egypt’s military under the present uncertain circumstances.” What circumstances are more appropriate for sending U.S. arms and money? When the Muslim Brotherhood dominates parliament, the presidency, has written a constitution mandating Sharia law, and follows a policy of death to America and death to Israel? Who are you going to cheer for if Islamists rebel against the regime?
Maybe now is a good moment for the U.S. government to remain quiet.
Is there a precedent for this? Yes. After the Algerian government abrogated elections that it knew Islamists were going to win in 1991, the U.S. governments of George Bush and Bill Clinton generally shut up about it and let the French take the lead in helping the military government, which won the civil war. In contrast, in 2006, a misguided “democratic” impulse let President George W. Bush to stand aside and permit Hamas to compete in Palestinian elections even though its refusal to accept the Oslo peace process disqualified that radical Islamist group. Today, the Gaza Strip lives under repressive Islamist rule. The regime there has already launched one failed and costly war against Israel and it is only a matter of time until it starts round two.