I've been writing off and on that the Obama administration inherited a situation in Egypt that was bound to go bad, but today's Jackson Diehl column in the Washington Post suggests there's a lot more culpability at the Obama White House than I assumed.
Diehl – who has written frequently about the repressive Hosni Mubarak regime – documents how the administration was warned repeatedly that Egypt was nearing a critical tipping point – and how those warnings, from highly credible experts, were ignored in the interests of some illusory notion of “stability.”
“The Working Group on Egypt was formed a year ago to sound the alarm about Mubarak's crumbling regime,” Diehl writes. “ The first sentence of its opening statement: 'Egypt is at a critical turning point.' The group is still issuing detailed proposals about how to handle the crisis. On Monday, it warned that the administration 'may acquiesce to an inadequate and possibly fraudulent transition process in Egypt.' Sadly, the administration is still not listening.”
He quotes from an earlier Washington Post op-ed by Working Group members Michele Dunne and Robert Kagan – written way back in June, when Egypt wasn't on the radar screen of most commentators, and obviously wasn't on the radar screens at the White House:
"The Obama administration, in pursuit of an illusory stability, stands mute and passive as the predictable train wreck draws nearer . . . it is repeating the mistake that Cold War-era administrations made when they supported right-wing dictatorships - right up until the point when they were toppled by radical forces."
Still, no glimmers of understanding from the White House or Foggy Bottom.
For sure, hindsight is easy, and there's little doubt this administration has a lot on its plate right now, both domestically and internationally.
But it seems to me this is part of a pattern: foreign policy stemming from a view of the world as officials here would like it to be, not as it is.
It's an approach that let them shut out urgent pleas from highly reputable foreign policy experts that our policy in Egypt was about to blow up in our faces, and which now seems to be drawing them back into Mubarak's web.
It's an approach that promised strong and aggressive leadership in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but has instead left a trail of confusion and disappointment, with trust in Washington all but gone on both sides of the divide.
Yes, Obama inherited some major foreign policy messes created by the shortsighted policies of Democrats and Republicans alike. But it's beginning to look as if when it comes to shortsightedness and deafness, this administration is right up there with the champs.
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