You can understand Barack Obama’s frustration now that he finally put down his putter on Martha’s Vineyard and noticed that something was going on in Cairo. John Kerry bestirred himself, too, pronouncing the chaos in Cairo “dreadful.” That’s pretty strong language for a tea-sipper. There’s glum agreement everywhere that there’s no peace for Egypt in sight.
The nations of the West, including Israel, must keep looking, but we fool only ourselves if we think there’s a magic elixir to encourage the lion to lie down with the lamb and not regard it only as dinner. In the days following Sept. 11, George W. Bush called Islam a religion of peace, but nobody ever called the Prophet Muhammad “the prince of peace.” That’s the starting point.
The origins of the violence confuse Mr. Obama’s White House. The president just can’t give up on the Muslim Brotherhood and “the Arab spring,” which we were told would bring peace, justice and other good things to the Middle East. The liberal elites in America, fed glowing testimonials from people who knew better, couldn’t get enough of the roses and moonshine about springtime in Arabia. When reality arrived, as it always does, feelings were hurt.
President Obama was puzzled, too. How could he be wrong when he’s so sincere and when he sounds so fine in his own ears? He had reckoned that a three-quarter grovel in the speech he gave in Cairo would make everything nice. Alas, his low bow to everyone in a robe and a beard accomplished nothing. Well, nothing good. The mob took Mr. Obama’s measure and figured that at last America had a president who could be frightened out of the game.
Mohammed Morsi never wanted to be a friend of America, but actual friends in Cairo insist that the White House overlooked opportunities to squeeze the Egyptians early to make the point that American interests were at stake and Washington expected them to be taken into account. Mr. Kerry, busy with the Israelis and the Palestinians, trying to make a passable facsimile of peace, paid no attention to the opportunities in Cairo.
So we soldier on, always remembering Ronald Reagan’s admonition, given in another time of peril, to “trust, but verify.” Israel, the blood-brother ally in the region, regards Egypt as a source, perhaps the only source, of stability, and works to maintain friendly relations with the Egyptian generals, who are mostly secular and who alone have the muscle to guarantee a rough semblance of law and order. President Obama canceled a joint U.S.-Egypt military exercise, maybe a needed gesture, but it’s important to discern the difference between bad guys and badder guys.
The blood and smoke in the streets obscure the reality that the mobs of the Muslim Brotherhood speak only for themselves. By all independent accounts, the brotherhood is not the voice of the people, but only of the mob. Cairo is in such chaos that nobody even knows how many dead and wounded litter the streets, and which side shot them all. The television images, as always, distort reality, and leaders in Europe and in the United States draw distorted conclusions. They’re told by the media on the ground that the death and destruction must be the fault of the government and the army.
The government says 140 persons were slain on Tuesday; more realistic estimates put the dead at several hundred; the Muslim Brotherhood, savvy in the ways the excitable Western media can be manipulated by extravagant and unconfirmed claims, puts the estimates of the dead in the thousands. The government says 43 policemen were killed on Wednesday in Muslim Brotherhood attacks on 21 police stations. Cairo newspapers report that the cops were not only killed, but mutilated. Decency dies hard in the precincts of the Islamists.
The news goes from grim to grimmer. The mob put the torch to several Christian churches; dozens of homes of Christians were set ablaze. This won’t arouse the sleepy Western media, but it speaks volumes about the nature of the Muslim Brotherhood.
When the army moved in, thousands cheered, or at least mumbled thanks. There seems to be little pity for the dead of the Muslim Brotherhood, which brought their women and children to the violence and got what it asked for, martyrdom for all. “You cannot [cry for martyrdom] day after day and then cry out in horror and shock, ‘Look, the police are killing us,” writes Abdallah Schleifer, a columnist for the newspaper al Arabiya. The brotherhood, he says, has “alienated just about everyone else in this country.” In Washington, too, if anyone at the White House is paying attention.
Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.