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Obama's mess in Egypt

By PETER MORICI, UPI Outside View Commentator   |   July 5, 2013 at 7:20 AM   |   Comments

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COLLEGE PARK, Md., July 5 (UPI) -- Recent events in Egypt put U.S. President Barack Obama in a tough spot, even if not as difficult as that of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.

At least the latter gentleman knows his own mind, even if paying a high price for it, whereas Obama is at wit's end to articulate where he stands on the sanctity of democracy and its place in U.S. foreign policy.

Obama is bound by his own words, international law and the expectations of allies, such as Great Britain, not to acknowledge or support coups that overthrow duly elected governments. For the president, it is an inconvenient truth that Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, accomplished his office through the ballot box and was as constitutionally legitimate as Obama, but for one small fact.

Morsi pushed through constitutional changes that are rather favorable to the fundamentalist thinking of the Muslim Brotherhood. Of course, those views about the desired progress of society and place of religion in the equation are hardly simpatico with the left-leaning ideas on Harvard Yard and other U.S. temples of the "progressive" movement.

Like most Americans, I have no truck with the ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood but the mob in the streets objecting to Morsi chose methods other than ballots to remove him. Sadly for him, the Egyptian military is neither under civilian control nor primarily financed by the Egyptian government. It gets its manna from the Obama administration via more than $1 billion annually in U.S. foreign aid.

Now, the new government, in a fit of liberal tolerance, is jailing Muslim Brotherhood leaders and it would seem democracy is accomplishing more progress in U.S.-sanctioned Iran than American-supported Egypt.

During its recent perils, the Obama White House didn't support the elected Egyptian government. It stated the Morsi government must respect the will of all the people, much as the U.S. president did pushing through Obamacare despite the disapproval of the majority of Americans, as expressed through town meetings, polls and a U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts.

Instead, the U.S. president gave a wink and a nod to a military takeover in Egypt, which the U.S. State Department is now indicating may not be a coup because the generals haven't imposed a military leader. Instead, they have put in place as president Egypt's highest judge, after he was in office but two days.

Even if a figurehead, that makes the military removal of a duly elected Egypt president not a coup, therefore legitimate?

That question has the legal minds at the State Department working overtime.

The upshot: In Egypt Obama's principal representative, Ambassador Anne Patterson, is vilified by all sides, and the Muslim Brotherhood is likely permanently disabused of the notion that participating in democratic processes can lead to its views taking hold anywhere from Syria to Yemen.

This is a mighty grand mess that will result in untold bloodshed and further reinforce anti-American views across the Middle East. Now, the Arab Spring could easily become pan-Arab anarchy, and much blood will be on U.S. hands. Only a fool would think this situation wouldn't inspire new terrorists.

Those remarkable accomplishments notwithstanding, Americans are entitled to know: What is the U.S. policy toward overthrowing democratically elected governments? Is it unacceptable except when it gives rise to fundamentalist social and religious views the prelates within the American academy and mainstream media don't like?

Who says America doesn't have an insular aristocracy and ayatollahs of its own.

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(Peter Morici is professor of international business at the Smith School of Business,, University of Maryland, and widely published columnist. Follow him on Twitter: @pmorici1)

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(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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