Tepid rationalizations that the United States has “limited leverage” in Egypt or that the Arab Spring is “failing” do not change a basic fact: An U.S.-funded “ally” has carried out one of the largest massacres of protesters in a decade.
It is time for Obama to cut off U.S. aid to Egypt. Ending assistance will not curb the behavior of Egypt’s increasingly autocratic military ruler, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Nor will it ease that country’s political divide or reduce ant-Americanism. But it will say that the United States actually stands for basic international principals.
And if Rohde had stopped here, we'd be in agreement. Of course, blaming President Obama then becomes just as much of a copout as Rohde accuses Obama of taking.
Wednesday’s killings and events in the Middle East over the last few weeks point to an alarming trend for the Obama White House: Its drone and surveillance-centric approach to counterterrorism is failing. A grim reality is emerging for Americans. The George W. Bush invasion-centric approach to countering militancy failed. And so is the cautious, middle of the road Obama strategy.
From massacres in Cairo to prison breaks across the region, the United States is more hated and less secure. At the same time, al Qaeda affiliates are gaining fighters, propaganda victories and recruiting tools.
The message the White House sent to young Islamists in Egypt this week was clear: What jihadists have been telling you about American hypocrisy for years is true. Democratic norms apply to everyone but you. Participating in elections is pointless. Violence is the route to power. Wherever he is hiding in the mountains of Pakistan, Ayman al Zawahiri is likely pleased.
Yeah, and this is where Rohde goes off the cliff. The real problem here is that we've built up so much blowback in the Middle East since Reagan that taking a caution approach amounted to watching everything come back on us with explosive force, and then trying to clean up the mess. We're blaming Obama for 35 years of ridiculous foreign policy, of which he's been in charge for 5.
The situation in the Middle East is insanely complex. It's not "pro-Morsi vs. anti-Morsi" forces in Egypt, it's dozens of factions with multiple relationships. Dumping it all on Obama is not only unhelpful, but wrong. The approach we're taking is working, it's just that the problems the previous administrations put us in have been so awful, the damage will continue to reverberate for decades.
So no, this isn't Obama's fault. He can do some things in particular, like ending Egypt's military aid. But let's be realistic here.