Nothing confuses liberals more than discovering that the tide of progress has gone out, leaving them high, dry and naked. President Obama has been beached by his backing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. What once seemed so progressive and hip now isn’t cool at all, at home or abroad, and the Egyptian generals took their cue from the millions of protesters in Cairo. Now President Obama has to return to the idea, which may seem weird and alien in this White House, of doing only the things that advance the interests of the United States.
Mr. Obama was all but giddy, surfing on what he imagined was the tide of history only a few years ago. The hopeless Middle East appeared poised for change with the coming of the “Arab Spring,” and suddenly, like dominoes, secular regimes in Tunisia, Libya and Yemen collapsed. Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year reign came to an abrupt end. The successors to these regimes were portrayed in Washington and the West as the good guys, though a sober view would have revealed that the movement in Egypt was rooted in radical Islam, not in a yearning for liberty and true democracy.
The White House lent more than just moral support to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Arab Spring that brought about the election of Mr. Morsi and the adoption of an Islam-centric constitution in December. Mr. Obama promised to give Mr. Morsi 200 Abrams main battle tanks and 20 F-16 fighter jets, all very effective in crushing uppity seekers of a better life.
The planes and tanks weren’t delivered quickly enough. Egyptians grew less enthralled with the hope and change promised by Mr. Morsi as his nation’s hard times grew even harder. Unemployment reached 15 percent, inflation to 8.5 percent. A Zogby poll measured Mr. Morsi’s support at a pathetic 28 percent; 20 million Egyptians signed an online petition demanding his ouster.
When crowds took to the streets of Cairo on the one-year anniversary of Mr. Morsi’s inaugural, they carried banners reading, “Obama supports terrorism” and “Obama supports dictator Morsi.” Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, the chief of the Army, decreed a military takeover on July 3, forcing Mr. Obama to admit to being “deeply concerned” over the coup he wouldn’t call a coup. Doing that would trigger a cut-off of $1.3 billion in U.S. aid.
With 80 dead, a thousand injured and growing prospects of civil war, the hour grows late for the Obama administration to rediscover American interests. We’ll help him: It’s in America’s interests to favor nations that uphold similar values. This excludes Egypt, where the constitution enshrines Shariah as the basis for law, and paves the path to the kind of repressive theocracy that grips Iran.
The United States can’t take sides in every conflict in the world. Mr. Obama now suffers the error of siding with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Sen. John McCain and others have called for a suspension of U.S. aid to Cairo, which seems the prudent course at the moment when neither side in the argument is particularly friendly to American interests. The president must get his head out of the sand, put aside sentimental childhood memories, and recognize what Egyptians are learning. Democracy and Islamic law are not compatible.
The Washington Times