White House Confronting--Sort of--Egyptian President's Frothing Hatred of Jews Reveals Its Deeper Policy Thinking
The White House's response to Morsi's remarks was in the framework of that approach -- condemning the language of one particular statement while praising Morsi for some things he's done. He is praised for not abrogating the Egypt-Israel peace treaty -- yet -- and for helping get a ceasefire in the latest Israel-Hamas war. It is good that Morsi helped U.S. goals in that case, but since he was in effect doing even more to help his ally Hamas, one should be entitled to a certain element of cynicism. The Egyptian regime is apparently blocking some -- not all -- of the weapons going into Gaza because a direct confrontation with Israel is not in its interests. Of course, direct confrontation with Israel (after 1973) wasn't in Egyptian, Syrian, or Iraqi interests either. That's why they used terrorist group clients to do the job.
But the main problem with the White House response is not that it is too weak, but that it deals with calling Jews the offspring of pigs and monkeys against whom eternal war must be waged as entirely isolated from any analysis or policy consideration. None of these factors are considered as part of the Egyptian president's and Muslim Brotherhood's ideology and worldview.
This kind of hate speech is not equivalent to an American politician making a gaffe -- many such examples can be given -- but is a core aspect of the Islamist and Brotherhood ideology from which its policy behavior will flow. Carney's government-crafted statement also reflects a strong hint that Morsi is now older and wiser, so the things he said before becoming president don't matter any more. He's being disciplined by the requirements of wielding power. But such concepts have failed repeatedly in the Middle East -- Arab nationalists did not become moderate, neither did Islamists in Iran, or Yasir Arafat in the Palestinian Authority -- and other parts of the world.
Indeed, hate speech is more significant when it doesn't just feature a banned ethnic slur, but is followed by the stirring up of violent hatreds among millions of people that are likely -- as they have in the past -- to lead to war and terrorism.
It is ridiculous that such disproved, mistaken ideas form the basis for U.S. policy in 2013. The response to Morsi's rants is like condemning nasty anti-capitalist statements made by Lenin before the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia, but implying that this is merely a problem of intemperate language, of hate speech, that will probably go away now that he is facing the responsibilities of power.
Carney added: "This type of rhetoric is not acceptable or productive in a democratic Egypt." That is correct diplomatic language, but those who use it are supposed to know that such sentiments are also ridiculous. Acceptable? That type of rhetoric is the norm now. And whatever Morsi says about keeping the treaty with Israel, his view of Jews as sub-humans who should be wiped out may have something to do with his behavior as president in future.
Note, too, that Morsi and his colleagues believe that to think that way is a direct command from God, a personage in whom they place a high level of respect.
The White House did not respond to the fact that Morsi's statement is based on key Islamic texts. There was no need for the White House to say that -- it wasn't asked. But it is vital that the White House understands that fact. Islamist ideas are interpretations that are not inevitable, but the fact that they are quite arguably proper interpretations of the proper Islamic religious worldview makes them far more powerful. The White House behaves as if they are the zany misinterpretations of marginal would-be hijackers of Islam.
It isn't easy to deal with this situation. The problem, though, is that it needed to be managed before it got to this point.
Consider the question of whether the U.S. government should supply Egypt with advanced military equipment. How's this for a joke: the reason America has been giving Egypt arms for the last 30-plus years is to use them against the people who are now in power in Egypt.
Of course it isn't that simple, but the weapons were also provided to keep the existing regime in power, to keep it at peace with Israel, and to ensure a close relationship with the United States. Only the last of these points still applies. Yet that, too, is compromised. The premise now is that military officers will constrain the Brotherhood regime. But of course they won't, at least not short of the direct launching of a war on Israel, as many officers sympathize with the Brotherhood and radical Islamism. Besides, the regime will pick and choose the officers it will put in charge of those weapons to ensure they will follow its orders. We know, of course, that congressional efforts will fail to stop the arms supply, that any conditions placed upon it can be easily disregarded, and that the transfer of weaponry will go through.
Another issue is the U.S. insistence that Morsi show he opposes religious intolerance. It is safe to say that during each month of 2013 there will be several anti-Christian actions -- church burnings, prohibitions on building, attacks on Christians, kidnapping of Christian women and their forcible "conversion" to Islam, etc -- about which the Egyptian government will do nothing, and the U.S. government will say nothing.