09.15.12 11:08 AM ET
If Bush Had Said That About Egypt
I want to return to this, because I was frankly amazed at the comment thread on my first item about this, from yesterday.
Obama obviously didn't make any kind of mistake when he referred to Egypt as not an ally. He was throwing down. Here's Juan Cole, in an item headlined "Obama Plays Hardball and Morsi Folds," which fills in some interesting details:
Under Obama’s pressure, Morsi, in Brussels seeking European aid, finally explicitly condemned Tuesday’s attack on the US embassy in Egypt:
“We don’t accept, condone, or approve at all for there to be attacks on embassies, consulates or people, or killing in any way.”
“We want to cooperate with the entire world and we are cooperating now with the E.U. and the European people and with the American people and others and the U.S. administration to prevent such practices in the future. Also, we insist on the protection of persons, properties and embassies. The Egyptian people are very civilized and could not ever express their rejection of such practices with an attack on an embassy or person or consulate.”
Some of Morsi’s sudden willingness to say all this was fueled by Obama’s pressure. In addition, Morsi revealed some of his other motives:
“Muslims and Christians in Egypt are equal citizens and have the same rights… We are cautious about those principles and human values, also respecting visitors and respecting tourists… and respecting and protecting diplomatic delegations and private and public properties, and not attacking them.”
That is, somebody told Morsi he had to say something if he wanted to keep the tourist trade, much less the American alliance!
Note, please, that not only did Morsi issue an unequivocal call for protection of US personnel and property, but he expressed support for a solid Jeffersonian principle there.
Does he believe it? I don't know. Let's even say he doesn't. But at least he said it. That's how the Muslim world will change--bit by bit, over time, as more and more leaders have to say things like this, and by the time the next generation has power, with any luck, a majority will actually believe it and try to live that way.
And Obama forced his hand. I'd have thought this was exactly the kind of tough talk conservatives would admire. If Bush had done this, I have no doubt, and I mean no doubt, that conservatives would have applauded it universally--throwing down the gauntlet at a Muslim Brotherhood leader, confounding the "Arabists" down at State. Of course, I readily admit many liberals would have mocked it, but I honestly doubt that I would have. I wrote pretty favorably, for example, about Bush's second inaugural address, which was devoted to the same themes and which a lot of lliberals tried to belittle.
So honestly. Obama did exactly the right thing here, and in fact kind of a ballsy thing. I know it's election time, and we can't expect people who despise Obama to give him a single point just seven weeks from election day, but the reaction I saw on that thread from some of you was just transparently about politics with no concern about international relations and the safety of our people in Egypt, which Obama's comment helped secure.