Obama Admin Failing to Follow ‘Don’t Do Stupid S***’ Policy in Egypt

One of the promises the Obama administration made when it came to foreign policy was simple and straightforward: Don’t do stupid s*** (stuff).  While they’ve been successful in living up to that mantra by doing things like making the nuclear deal with Iran, they’ve failed miserably and disgracefully in Egypt.

A recent piece from the AP not only illustrates this fact but should be very disturbing from a national security perspective.  The article points out how the young in Egypt, who supported the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood, are now disillusioned with the idea of democracy and are turning to jihad.  A startling tidbit from the story says it all:

Once sympathetic to Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, some of them resent it as weak and ineffectual.

“Now we know there is only one right way: jihad,” said the law student, Abdelrahman, showing off scars from pellets fired at him by police shotguns during protests…He spoke bitterly about the series of ballot box victories in 2011 and 2012 that gave the Muslim Brotherhood political dominance and made Morsi the country’s first freely elected president.

Democracy doesn’t work. If we win, the powers that be, whoever they are, just flip things over,” he said. “The Brotherhood thought they could play the democratic game, but in the end, they were beaten.” (Emphasis added)

The article goes on to describe some of the brutal tactics the state has employed against protesters and notes the young man quoted above is on his way to supporting and joining ISIS.

And what has the Obama administration done about this abuse of human rights that is driving more people toward extremism?  Supported and armed the abusers even further and has now boasted about those arms in a YouTube video, which was recently pointed out by Glen Greenwald.

Greenwald also adds a quote from a recent piece in the NYT (mostly fluff) about Secretary of State John Kerry supposedly taking a stand (but not really) against Egypt’s human rights abuses.  The quote should not just be noted.  It should be burned into the brain of everyone that thinks the U.S. is always on the right side of things when it comes to who we support around the world.  It just speaks volumes and no democracy with any morals should allow this type of thinking from their elected government:

“American officials . . . signaled that they would not let their concerns with human rights stand in the way of increased security cooperation with Egypt.”

That quote should turn everyone’s stomach.

And this isn’t to say the Muslim Brotherhood would have been a perfect friend to the U.S. or that they didn’t do  things that were seen as utterly awful in the eyes of many.  It was a fledgling democracy and things got very ugly and even fatal at times.  But it was the choice of the people of Egypt at the time and, most importantly, the alternative appears to be incredibly worse with the disaffected now looking toward joining ISIS.

The cycle of violence here is as black and white as it gets.  The Muslim Brotherhood is overthrown and an authoritarian regime takes power and abuses human rights.  The United States then backs that regime by arming them and allowing them to abuse their power even more.  The angry youth who lose faith in democracy take up arms and choose a path of violence.  The U.S. sells more arms to a brutal regime to crackdown further.

This is the equivalent of handing Jack the Ripper a set of knives, knowing he’s already killed people, but politely asking him to just use these on food.  There’s no mystery as to how this will work out.

Egypt looks like a bad situation getting worse at the moment and the United States is exacerbating the problem by knowingly arming an abusive government.  We’ve done it many times before and many innocent people have been slaughtered by U.S.-backed regimes around the world.  It’s yet another example of how not to do foreign policy yet the Obama administration is doing the same old stupid s*** we’ve seen too many times before.

Kerry Calls Snowden A “Traitor”…Among Other Things

Edward Snowden Meets With German Green Party MP Hans-Christian Stroebele In MoscowThis morning when I was watching the Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd on MSNBC (a good program for mainstream politics), Todd interviewed Sec. of State John Kerry with questions about NSA-leaker Edward Snowden.

Kerry proceeded to call Snowden a “traitor” and said he “betrayed his country.” He then called on Snowden to “man up” and return to the United States to face the law. He said he should take his argument to the courts like Daniel Ellsberg did with the Pentagon Papers in the early 70’s, that is, if he were a “patriot.”

But what chance does he stand in the United States when pleading his case in a court of law?

According to this Guardian interview with Snowden adviser Ben Wizner, the chance of him returning to the United States to “man up” seems unlikely for the political landscape here would land him in an unfairly constructed trial with a draconian sentence if convicted.

But when I saw the interview this morning I thought of what of us who think that what Snowden did was a good thing? Am I and others sharing my opinion not patriots? I wouldn’t put the label of “hero” upon him in my own estimation, but I think he did the right thing and he should not, like Ellsberg, and unlike Manning, be convicted under the charges included in the outdated 1917 Espionage Act.

Also, remember that:

“NBC Nightly News” anchor and managing editor Brian Williams traveled to Moscow this week for an exclusive, wide-ranging interview with Edward Snowden. The former NSA contractor’s first-ever American television interview will air in an hour-long NBC News primetime special on Wednesday, May 28 at 10 p.m. Eastern/9 p.m. Central.

Watch it or DVR it!
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Kerry Blames Israeli Settlements for Breakdown

09post-articleLargeAn update in the NYT reports that Sec. of State John Kerry blamed the breakdown of the most recent attempt Mid-East peace talks on Israel’s announcement of new settlements in East Jerusalem.

Notice how, though, as in almost all major media outlets in America, the NYT quickly reports that the Palestinians are just as at fault with their supposed “tit-for-tat” actions by applying for statehood with various international unions.

In the American mass media, Israel can mostly do no wrong.

Read Here.

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John Kerry Shows off U.S. Hypocrisy on Foreign Policy

As the situation in the Ukraine continues to rear its ugly head, Secretary of State John Kerry had some tough words for Russia: stay out or we might do bad stuff to you.

Kerry said that he spoke Saturday with foreign ministers from the G-8 and other nations and that “every single one of them are prepared to go to the hilt in order to isolate Russia.”

“They’re prepared to put sanctions in place,” he said. “They’re prepared to isolate Russia economically. The ruble is already going down. Russia has major economic challenges. I can’t imagine that an occupation of another country is something that appeals to a people who are trying to reach out to the world, and particularly if it involves violence.”

Do as we say, not as we do.

In other words, Russia should not use its military power to intervene in escalated situations where it sees fit no matter what the case.  In fact, as Kerry Tweeted today, invasion is an act of weakness:

Invasion is not the act of someone who is strong. It is the act of someone who is weak.

Interesting assessment.  Just one thing: John Kerry from today, I’d like you to meet John Kerry from four days ago.

While commenting on the situation in Syria, Kerry took this position:

Kerry inveighed against what he sees as a tendency within the United States to retreat from the world.

“There’s a new isolationism…We are beginning to behave like a poor nation,” he added, saying some Americans do not perceive the connection between U.S. engagement abroad and the U.S. economy, their own jobs and wider U.S. interests.

Remember, acts of war mean jobs at home.  Never forget that piece of propaganda and never think we could spend that money on any other venture to create jobs, America.  Continuing:

“Look at our budget. Look at our efforts to get the president’s military force decision on Syria backed up on (Capitol Hill). Look at the House of Representatives with respect to the military and the budget,” Kerry said.

“All of those things diminish our ability to do things.”

So, if we read this correctly, here is the U.S. logic for the week on foreign policy:

Since the U.S. is a rich nation, we must use our military to intervene in international situations or we look poor and weak (forget the idea that we could help nations through means other than dropping bombs and shooting people, by the way).

Since Russia is a rich nation, they must NOT use their military to intervene in international situations or they look poor and weak.

Sound correct, Sec. Kerry?

American Government Insults of Latin America Counterproductive

If the United States’ government wants to truly work alongside the governments of Latin America, they seem to have one major request: treat them as equals and not act as imperial as we have in the past.

Two articles today emphasize this perspective.  The first is from the NYTimes and notes the growing animosity between U.S. and Mexican officials trying to combat the ongoing drug war.  One part of this relationship is that the United States gets to polygraph Mexican officials to attempt to make sure they are not working in collaboration with the drug cartels.  There has been a somewhat humorous response recently from the new regime in Mexico to this action:

“So do we get to polygraph you?” one incoming Mexican official asked his American counterparts.

It is a worthwhile question in all fairness.  And one must ask why the U.S. might balk at this idea?  If we are asking the Mexican officials to confirm they are not working with the drug cartels through polygraphs, shouldn’t we extend them the same courtesy?  What do our officials have to hide that makes them apprehensive about this?  When this action is a one way street, it is rather insulting to the other side no matter how you try to sell it.

The second article from the AP states Bolivian President Evo Morales has expelled USAID, which, as stated in the piece, has a history of undermining regimes in Latin American states even if they were democratically elected.  Part of the reason for Morales following through on this frequent threat was U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s flub of calling Latin America the United States’ “backyard”.

Using the word “backyard” to describe Latin America is not necessarily anything new in the U.S. but it is an insult to those countries, something that usually goes unrecognized to the point of it being second nature.  The U.S. has its history of considering people second-class citizens.  But in this case we are considering countries as second-class and, to the shock of no one, they kind of hate that.

The time is long overdue for a change in both language and actions in the United States’ government in regards to Latin America.  If we want a healthy relationship with the region, we have to recognize they are truly our equals and our neighbors and no longer our “backyard”.  The faster this change comes, the stronger the region will be.

Schizophrenic U.S. Policy in Middle East: What Type of Government do we Support?

A couple of articles in recent days on the CSM’s site might leave one wondering just what is U.S. policy toward the Middle East as far as the idea of democracy is concerned.  The first article concerns John Kerry’s surprise visit to Iraq and his negotiations with the Iraqi government over support of Assad in Syria.

If we put enough blinders on to forget the WMDs that were not in Iraq or the links to Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden that were also absent from the country, we can get to the distant third reason we were given for invading the country: bringing democracy to the people.  Well, mission accomplished!  But it seems this new democracy is doing what it chooses instead of taking orders from other countries, namely the U.S.  Clearly, the Iraqis need to understand the way to run your country when it is a democracy is to listen to whatever the U.S. says and do just that.  In other words, they are “free” to do whatever we tell them to do.

This is so easy to follow!

My poly sci might be a little rusty so I’m just going to assume that is the meaning of democracy.

Not really but that is the message we send.  From Secretary of State Kerry:

“I also made it clear to [Maliki] that there are members of Congress and people in America who increasingly are watching what Iraq is doing and wondering how it is that a partner in the efforts for democracy and a partner for whom Americans feel they have tried so hard to be helpful – how that country can be, in fact, doing something that makes it more difficult to achieve our common goals, the goal expressed by the Prime Minister with respect to Syria and President Assad.” (Emphasis added.)

Common goals?  Not abundantly clear as noted in the article.

But the short, unmasked version is: ‘How can they defy us?’  To which I assume their reply might be: ‘We’re a democracy and this is what we want for now.’  To which we might reply: ‘It was easier working with Hussein.  Maybe we bungled this one.’

But hey, we are all about democracy these days, right?

Not really as indicated by the second article.  One of America’s closer allies in the Middle East, Bahrain, stopped Doctors Without Borders from holding a conference there on medical ethics and showed what a shining example of democracy they are in the region.

What’s that?  Bahrain’s a monarchy?  Like other close ally Saudi Arabia?  Huh?  Are we preparing an invasion?  This is confusing!

The fact is, we can’t pretend we are interested in bringing democracy to the world when we openly and closely work with governments such as these.  And the true nature of U.S. policy in the Middle East should be summed up for what it really is: work with us and we like you no matter what you do to your people or how you run your government.

The actions are just too transparent to even attempt to hide any longer, such as resuming arms sales to Bahrain after the government violently put down protests for democracy.  Part of this mess is summed up in one line:

While the US and Saudi Arabia may be pushing for the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and the replacement of his Iran-friendly government with one run by Syria’s majority Sunni Arab population, it would be horrified at the overthrow of Bahrain’s Sunni Arab king by his mostly Shiite subjects.

I’m honestly not sure why we even try to mask our overall policy with any rhetoric alleging a concern for democracy any longer.  We want what we want and that is final no matter what the people of other countries say.

The Disaster That Is, Was, and Continues to be U.S. Policy Toward Egypt

To say the United States’ foreign policy moves concerning Egypt over the past three decades have been questionable is a colossal understatement.  A better description is that it was awful to begin and is now disastrous after the overthrow of former dictator Mubarak.  The entire situation is a mess and there seems to be little hope of it resolving in the near future.

In the lead-up to Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Egypt this weekend, a Washington Post article touched on many of the points from the American government’s point of view.  To start, a big problem in this relationship is the fact the U.S. supported Mubarak so heavily for so long and the Egyptian people did not take to kindly to that when given the chance to speak.  They don’t like it that so much aid was given to the Egyptian military under Mubarak by the U.S. and now wants America to change tactics.  Which it has rhetorically by doing the following: supporting the Egyptian military and denouncing the democratically elected leader.

“Egypt’s military is our friend,” (Senator James M.) Inhofe said in a statement explaining his bill. “Morsi is our enemy.”

As we all know, one of the best ways to conduct foreign policy is to call the leader of a country you are trying to deal with “our enemy”.  That way the leader then knows they will likely get nowhere in negotiating with you and will look to other countries for policy choices when needed.  This is a textbook example of how to calmly and coolly make friends around the world.  Or is it how to make the situation worse?  Yep, that’s it.

It continues:

“I would hate to see American weapons, sophisticated F-16s, being used against Israel,” (Rep. Juan) Vargas said in an interview. “We’ve seen historically, it could happen again, especially with the radicalization of Egypt.”

Yes, because American weapons falling into the hands of someone using it against Israel (also armed with American weapons) would be bad.  No reason for Egyptians to be upset there.  Unless they read a follow-up article on the Kerry visit:

U.S. officials said Kerry planned to stress the importance of upholding Egypt’s peace agreement with Israel, cracking down on weapons smuggling to extremists in the Gaza Strip.

In other words, it is acceptable and even normal policy for the U.S. to arm one side of the struggle between Israel and Palestine but no one is allowed to arm the other side.  Because who is interested in anything resembling a fair fight in which Israel might have to eventually negotiate on equal terms with Palestinians over statehood.  No hypocrisy here as long as the blatant hypocrisy is completely ignored.

But why would Egyptians be mad at the United States when both military and development aid have continued to flow in the post-Mubarak era.  The U.S. would want to continue to show its caring hand in the country by giving aid in both areas to the newly created democracy…right?  Nope.

Further complicating matters is Washington’s development aid package, which has been frozen for the better part of the post-revolutionary period, largely because Cairo has resisted efforts by the United States to get involved in democratic reform initiatives.

Do we even need to speculate as to why the Egyptians might be a little reluctant to have U.S. intervention in their political process?  Only the most dense would wonder about this position.

It is pretty obvious to the Egyptian people Washington is not helping Egypt to spread democracy or for humanitarian purposes.  Our interest is strategic and we will further that by supporting whoever will help us in that area, regardless of who the are.

Ensuring that Cairo continues to adhere to the terms of the deal, which is explosively unpopular on the Egyptian street, is the Obama administration’s leading incentive to continue the aid. But the United States has other interests, including continued naval access to the Suez Canal, which connects the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean.

Pretty simple.  Get the oil through and everything is okay.  I mean, if we cared about, say, human rights, would we have used Egypt for renditions of terror suspects so they could be tortured by Mubarak’s thugs?  Hard to argue otherwise.

All of these problems are occurring while protests continue in Egypt over the current powers-that-be, Morsi’s administration.  But the good news is we have declared Morsi “our enemy” and the protesters would be on our side for doing that.  And they have declared there happiness towards us by…not showing up for the Kerry visit, as stated in the article.  They also had some words and symbolic actions for us:

“It is clear that nothing has changed in Washington’s shallow way of dealing with Egypt,” he (an opposition leader, Ahmed Maher) said. “There are no deep conversations.”…Before the meeting, several hundred people protested against Kerry’s visit. They burned Kerry’s pictures and chanted that Washington was siding with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Again, this situation is a mess but it is apparent the United States is reaping what it sowed by supporting a ruthless dictator like Mubarak for three decades.  There is no simple solution to remedy this relationship and it will be no surprise if Egyptian angst toward the American government continues for the foreseeable future.