The toppling last week of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Cairo has offered a chance for us to engage in a long-overdue revisiting of one of the Obama administration’s most ominous strategic errors: Its enthusiasm for that Islamic supremacist group and the resulting U.S. help for the Brotherhood’s efforts to impose the totalitarian doctrine of shariah, in Egypt and elsewhere.
This error contributed materially to the rise of the Brothers to power in Egypt in the first place. It was manifested at the very outset of Mr. Obama’s presidency when, in March 2009, he aligned the United States with a top Islamist agenda item by agreeing to a UN Human Rights Council resolution meant to curb free speech. Then, in June of that year, the Obama administration insisted that representatives of the prohibited Muslim Brotherhood be present for his first “Muslim outreach” speech in Cairo.
In the ensuing years, the administration has intensified its efforts to “engage” the Brotherhood by legitimating, empowering and training its operatives, by accommodating the Islamists’ assault on our First Amendment freedoms through something known as the “Istanbul Process” and, once they had been helped to gain power in Egypt, by funding and even arming their regime.
Such support surely encouraged the Brothers to move aggressively to consolidate their hold on Egypt through the adoption of a shariah-compliant constitution and by the insinuation of its adherents into key positions throughout the government. The overreaching that ensued – manifested in increasing repression of secular opponents and violence against religious minorities – helped precipitate the backlash that resulted in Mohamed Morsi’s toppling.
We now stand at the cusp of a civil war in Egypt. Brotherhood leaders are being rounded up in an effort to prevent them from provoking the sort of disaster for that country and its people as that currently well-advanced in nearby Syria.
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