Who Lost the Middle East?
Both of these developments were reported last evening: Al Arabiya published the article "Saudi king congratulates Egypt's new interim president"; Time magazine reported that "Obama expresses 'concern' over Morsi ouster, orders review in military aid to Egypt."
In the light of the Saudi king's fulsome congratulations, Obama's sour reservations suggest a rift between the White House and the kingdom -- they're not singing off the same sheet of music. The Saudi king sounds delighted, while Obama acts like he's lost his shirt. Here's what the president said about the sudden departure of Morsi:
As I have said since the Egyptian Revolution, the United States supports a set of core principles, including opposition to violence, protection of universal human rights, and reform that meets the legitimate aspirations of the people. The United States does not support particular individuals or political parties, but we are committed to the democratic process and respect for the rule of law. Since the current unrest in Egypt began, we have called on all parties to work together to address the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people, in accordance with the democratic process, and without recourse to violence or the use of force.
The United States is monitoring the very fluid situation in Egypt, and we believe that ultimately the future of Egypt can only be determined by the Egyptian people. Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsy and suspend the Egyptian constitution. I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsy and his supporters. Given today’s developments, I have also directed the relevant departments and agencies to review the implications under U.S. law for our assistance to the Government of Egypt.
The United States continues to believe firmly that the best foundation for lasting stability in Egypt is a democratic political order with participation from all sides and all political parties —secular and religious, civilian and military. During this uncertain period, we expect the military to ensure that the rights of all Egyptian men and women are protected, including the right to peaceful assembly, due process, and free and fair trials in civilian courts. Moreover, the goal of any political process should be a government that respects the rights of all people, majority and minority; that institutionalizes the checks and balances upon which democracy depends; and that places the interests of the people above party or faction. The voices of all those who have protested peacefully must be heard – including those who welcomed today’s developments, and those who have supported President Morsy. In the interim, I urge all sides to avoid violence and come together to ensure the lasting restoration of Egypt’s democracy.
No transition to democracy comes without difficulty, but in the end it must stay true to the will of the people. An honest, capable and representative government is what ordinary Egyptians seek and what they deserve. The longstanding partnership between the United States and Egypt is based on shared interests and values, and we will continue to work with the Egyptian people to ensure that Egypt’s transition to democracy succeeds.
To Claire Berlinski, writing only a few days ago in City Journal from Turkey, the statement must have sounded depressingly familiar. She wrote a piece that was effectively about the prequel to Obama's statement about Egypt ... except that it was about Turkey. It contained the same signature lines. The admonition to bear with disappointments -- even betrayal -- which were normal in a mature democracy. The Turks were to take it from Barack -- he knew all about democracy.
Following the protests against Erdogan in Turkey, Berlinkski noted the U.S. ambassador trotted out the same counsel of patience with respect to Turkish discontent that the White House is now advancing to explain Cairo. She wrote:
After all, they’re told daily that what they are experiencing is normal, and that this is what all “advanced democracies” do. It would have been better by far to say nothing than to confirm these lies and better still to explain that in the United States, you’re unlikely ever to be arrested for demonstrating peacefully, nor will you ever be arrested for anything you say, and that it is very much our hope that Turks will one day experience this extraordinary freedom that we cherish.
[Ambassador] Ricciardone’s remarks caused real harm. The Turkish government immediately exploited his words. Headlines in the local papers announced, “Gezi Park protests are not exaggerated by White House.” ... the Turkish people learned that America had emerged from it saying: “Green light. We have no problem. Keep going.” And keep going Erdoğan’s government has. The next day, Interior Minister Muammer Güler announced that the government was preparing laws to fix “legislative gaps” in the regulation of social media—the one place where Turks might have a chance of finding actual news.
The United States may be permanently alienating the next generation of Turks, the ones with whom we really do want to be friends. When rumors that kids who are getting brutalized have been screaming, “Please help us, Obama” circulate over the Internet, followed by statements from our ambassador that the United States and Turkey share “the same ideas” about freedom and democracy, it confirms every suspicious instinct Turks have about the gulf between what America says about human rights and what we mean.
Perhaps that should read: " ... the gulf between what Obama says about human rights and what Obama means.".At any rate, the shambles littering North Africa to the Levant suggest that Ted Cruz's description of the administration's regional policy as "one of the most stunning diplomatic failures in recent memory" may be an understatement.