Rich Lowry: Obama ignores abuses of Egyptian president

2012-12-02T00:30:00Z Rich Lowry: Obama ignores abuses of Egyptian presidentBy Rich Lowry | Syndicated columnist La Crosse Tribune
December 02, 2012 12:30 am  • 

The great 19th-century satirist Ambrose Bierce defined a revolution as “an abrupt change in the form of misgovernment.” He would understand events in Egypt very well.

In the signature revolution of the Arab Spring, the country turned its back on a secular dictatorship only to fall into the arms of what looks like a budding Muslim Brotherhood dictatorship. Meet the new pharaoh, same as the old pharaoh. Except Egypt’s old form of misgovernment may soon look progressive by comparison.

Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi’s decree neutering the judiciary is the latest act in his steady consolidation of power. While he assiduously builds a dictatorship, the Obama administration just as assiduously tells itself bedtime stories. It’s a perfect division of labor — he goes about his empire-building with a clear-eyed realism; we consider it through a gauzy lens of delusion.

Since the end of Hosni Mubarak, the air has been thick with descriptions of the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi as moderates. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called the Muslim Brotherhood “largely secular.” If he had been speaking of the Church of England, he might have had a point.

Unfortunately, the Brotherhood’s credo is: “Allah is our objective; the Quran is our law; the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way.” Morsi summarized his program during the campaign as “the sharia, then the sharia, and finally the sharia.” (Unlike President Barack Obama, at least he had an agenda.)

After Mubarak’s fall, we fooled ourselves about the level of support for the Brotherhood. We fooled ourselves about the Brotherhood abiding by its promise not to run for the presidency. We fooled ourselves about what a Morsi victory would mean for democracy. Why stop fooling ourselves now?

Morsi staged his latest power grab on Thanksgiving Day in the immediate aftermath of working with Obama to get a cease-fire in hostilities between Hamas (a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot) and Israel. A New York Times piece reported that in his talks with Morsi, “Mr. Obama felt they were making a connection.” How sweet.

“He was impressed with the Egyptian leader’s pragmatic confidence.” And who can resist the lure of pragmatic confidence?

“He sensed,” the paper continued, in a gushing tone, “an engineer’s precision with surprisingly little ideology.”

This is the most embarrassing man-crush misjudgment of a noxious foreign leader since George W. Bush claimed to have peered into Vladimir Putin’s soul.

Obama famously disdained Mitt Romney. But the devotee of an Islamist organization about to stage a self-coup? Now, that’s a man he can work with.

The business about an engineer’s precision is priceless. What did the president expect? Morsi to try to convert him to Islam and harangue him about Malia and Sasha not wearing head scarves?

Morsi didn’t get where he is today without rationally calculating his interests. He probably has many crisply precise conversations every day; that doesn’t make his ultimate goal any less unreasonable.

The administration’s reaction to Morsi’s decree has been, “Well, golly, we hope everyone can talk things through.” In its mealy-mouthed noncondemnations, the Obama administration does no favors to the real moderates in the streets of Egypt pushing to get Morsi to back down.

But delusion is hard to give up. We always want to believe that other people are just like us and have, at bottom, the same practical concerns. It’s simply not true of fanatics. “This revolution was not about the price of watermelons,” Ayatollah Khomeini once told an aide worried about inflation.

Obama is subject to a more personal fantasy, which is the belief that he is uniquely suited to convince people hostile to us that we want to be their friends. This might make for nice phone calls, but it won’t change the convictions of a Mohamed Morsi.

If our leverage in Egypt is limited, we should still be using every bit of it to resist Morsi’s power grab. The first step is to let go of delusions — and perhaps read more Ambrose Bierce.

Rich Lowry can be reached at

Copyright 2015 La Crosse Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(7) Comments

  1. GrandpaS
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    GrandpaS - December 02, 2012 7:44 pm
    Diplomacy: "1. The art, science or practice of conducting negotiations between nations. 2. Skill or tact in dealing with others." And, you see, Mr. Lowrey, if you try diplomacy first and it works, you don't have to spend a bunch of lives and money going to war. War should be involved ONLY after diplocmacy has failed and an imminent danger exists.
  2. GrandpaS
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    GrandpaS - December 02, 2012 7:37 pm
    Sometimes Lowrey makes sense, sometimes he's an echo of Fox News. This column is the latter. He ignores two very important points: 1. The reaction of Obama that Lowrey talks about probably came very soon after Morsi's election. Morsi's edicts giving himself more power just happend last week. Big difference. 2. What is an American president, ANY American president, supposed to do if a foreign leader does something that America doesn't like? Declare war? Every time? Call that evil foreign leader and tell him that if he doesn't shut up and straighten out, he'll be assasinated? Spanked by his mother, maybe? How many American presidents declared war on Fidel Castro, other than the Bay of Pigs incident? That was back in the early 1960's, and Fidel just gave up power a few years ago. It's easy to sit on the sidelines and criticize. If you're that unhappy, Lowrey, let's see you suggest a plan. "Obama should do such and such."
    Otherwise, you're just whining and offering noise.
  3. Dagda
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    Dagda - December 02, 2012 7:18 pm
    I couldn't care less about the Middle East. This topic is soooo utterly boring.
  4. Napoleon
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    Napoleon - December 02, 2012 1:16 pm
    Seriously Nuts: "Supervictim..."

    Actually, that wouldn't be me. Ask a Catholic priest who the supervictims are: altar boys.

    "Tens of thousands of children have suffered sexual abuse in Dutch Catholic institutions since 1945, a report says."
  5. Seriously Now
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    Seriously Now - December 02, 2012 8:32 am
    Supervictim Nappy is foaming a the mouth this morning. Happens most Sundays. High point of his week.
  6. Napoleon
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    Napoleon - December 02, 2012 1:13 am
    More Ambrose Bierce and religion...

    "Faith, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel." -- Ambrose Bierce

    "Heathen, n. A benighted creature who has the folly to worship something he can see and feel." -- Ambrose Bierce

    "Infidel, n. In New York, one who does not believe in the Christian religion; in Constantinople, one who does." -- Ambrose Bierce

    "Pray, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner, confessedly unworthy." -- Ambrose Bierce

    "Rack, n. An argumentative implement formerly much used in persuading devotees of a false faith to embrace the living truth." -- Ambrose Bierce

    "Reverence, n. The spiritual attitude of a man to a god and a dog to a man." -- Ambrose Bierce

    "Scriptures, n. The sacred books of our holy religion, as distinguished from the false and profane writings on which all other faiths are based." -- Ambrose Bierce
  7. Napoleon
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    Napoleon - December 02, 2012 12:57 am
    Little Richie: "... the Brotherhood’s credo is: “Allah is our objective; the Quran is our law; the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way....Ambrose Bierce...”

    Sound like any Christian religion you know? Anyhow, I'm glad to hear that Little Richie is a big fan of the arch-cynic Ambrose Bierce too:

    "Religions are conclusions for which the facts of nature supply no major premises."
    -- Ambrose Bierce, Collected Works (1912)

    "Nothing is more logical than persecution. Religious tolerance is a kind of infidelity."
    -- Ambrose Bierce, Collected Works (1912)

    "Theology is a thing of unreason altogether, an edifice of assumption and dreams, a superstructure without a substructure." -- Ambrose Bierce

    "Camels and Christians receive their burdens kneeling." -- Ambrose Bierce

    "Clergyman, n. A man who undertakes the management of our spiritual affairs as a method of bettering his temporal ones." -- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)

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