Obama's "Stealth" Egyptian Dilemma
by BILL SIEGEL
February 3, 2011
Much has already been written about the Obama administration’s difficulties in responding to the current protests in Egypt. Serious unenviable ramifications lie in wait for any strategy adopted by the administration. Like every serious Middle East turn of events, where stability is so threatened and vital, a delicate balance of well considered and well informed thought is of paramount necessity.
Nonetheless, true leadership requires the administration, at the appropriate time, to clearly articulate U.S. interests and, more importantly, identify our allies and enemies. It is apparent that the administration desires to continue America’s cooperative relationship with the Egyptian military, part and parcel of years and billions in military aid. In the name of stability the military is of prime importance.
The administration also wishes to support the presumed interests of the “Egyptian people” as the administration has preferred to describe them. While it appears the administration is less familiar with exactly who makes up the group of protesters than we would expect of our supposedly sophisticated State Department and intelligence operations, Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have initially gotten away with referring to this mythological group. The impression they feed is that, like the innocent "victims" in Western protests who hold legitimate grievances, the “Egyptian people” have assembled just as those who flooded the Berlin wall; crying out for the basic freedoms Westerners seek- freedom of expression, association, and assembly. Assumed largely is the notion that the “Egyptian people,” given freedom, will certainly be pro-American.
This fantasy has floated the administration through its initial difficulties. It has allowed Obama to navigate the essential conflict that has defined "realist" U.S. policy for decades in the Middle East- support for a tyrannical ruler which compromises U.S. values for stability. Administration reserve and silence has wisely counseled its initial response, allowing Obama to avoid needless mistakes (excepting Vice President Biden’s counter-productive utterance that President Mubarak is not a dictator).
Yet, as the public begins to understand more that it understands less about the true makeup of the “Egyptian people” who comprise (or ultimately manipulate) protesters, silence becomes tiring and evidences weakness. Inevitably, the administration will have to take a position that clarifies who our allies and enemies are. The tightrope walking for years—that Mubarak has been both a major ally to the U.S. while simultaneously violating fundamental human rights positions important to the U.S.—is itself the narrative that generates much of the frustration of the protesters and allows many of them to view the U.S. as the enemy of the “Egyptian people.”
This view is exactly that of the Muslim Brotherhood, the “radical” Islamist group that many believe either provoked the protests in last Friday’s prayers or will hijack them. Although many choose to look the other way, The Brotherhood in Egypt makes no effort to disguise its position that America is its enemy (in addition to despotic rulers in Arab lands and Israel) or that it seeks the destruction of America as it is. In any other context, our leadership would have no difficulty in identifying the Brotherhood as our enemy.
Not so with the Obama administration. While President George W. Bush took great efforts to conduct Muslim outreach in the U.S., he was always prepared to identify “radicals” and “extremists” for who they were if the circumstances presented themselves. He began to take affirmative actions in pursuit of his Freedom Agenda to reset the balance more toward standing for U.S. values, particularly against Mubarak.
Obama took a different course. Specifically with Mubarak, he reduced support for democracy promotion and free elections. More importantly, he has conducted a very different approach to treatment of the Muslim world. Backed into a political corner to support the Afghanistan war, Obama locked into the designation of Al Qaeda as America’s true Muslim enemy while all other Muslims deserved outreach. Obama essentially divided the Muslim World into Al Qaeda and perhaps a few other “crazies” on the one hand, and members of a “peaceful religion” who suffer from prejudice and social injustice on the other. America needs to prove its bona fides to the latter and, presumably in some form, ensure social justice be returned.
This approach creates a difficult dilemma for Obama. The Muslim Brotherhood in its Middle East factions is undeniably radical and extreme. Hamas is Muslim Brotherhood—not merely, as some liberal media refer to it, a group with some connection with the Brotherhood. More importantly, the Brotherhood is behind all of the Muslim organizations in America that exert any degree of political power- CAIR, ISNA, MSA and so on. In America, these groups have been engineering what the Brotherhood itself has called “Civilization Jihad” which essentially amounts to an infiltration of all of our institutions while they have limited power such that, over time, they can pressure the fall of American culture to be replaced by Sharia Law. Robert Spencer cleverly uses the term "Stealth Jihad." Frank Gaffney calls it "Pre-violent Jihad."
The Obama administration, at every point of contact with the Brotherhood organizations in America, has bent over backward to cooperate, intentionally or not, ultimately facilitating the very strategies the Brotherhood employs. A quick read of the writings of Steven Emerson, Andrew McCarthy, Gaffney, Daniel Pipes, and others gives full background to the Pro-Brotherhood leanings of the administration.
Consequently, one of Obama’s great dilemmas created by the Egyptian outbreak is that to truly surface as a foreign policy leader, he will have to ultimately identify the Brotherhood as our enemy. Yet, in doing so, he will then have to reverse the course of action he has taken domestically. More importantly, he will be forced to take strong actions against the Brotherhood here.
How does Obama turn a blind eye to all that occurs in this country under the flimsy guise of “moderate” Islam that is the hallmark of the Brotherhood operations in America? How do he and Attorney General Eric Holder continue to avoid pursuing all of the Brotherhood entities in America who are engaged in fulfilling their stated goals in seeing the West convert into Islamic lands? Simply put, how does he continue the charade that the Brotherhood organizations in America are “moderate?”
This problem must not be underestimated. It is, perhaps, taking more time behind those closed doors than one wants to believe. The protests have concentrated worldwide attention on the Brotherhood. They may ultimately result in horrendous unrest with dire consequences to America and Israel. However, the sooner Obama is forced to answer the simple question, “Is the Muslim Brotherhood our enemy?” the sooner this country will be able to construct truly meaningful policies and strategies to confront the threat facing the “American people” here and there.