Our dimwitted State Department

As I wrote earlier today, the Obama administration’s decision to send F-16s to Egypt suggests how obtuse the president is about the nature of the Egyptian regime.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (Linda Davidson / The Washington Post)

Last week Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) wrote to the president expressing dismay about the F-16 transfer. He wrote, in part: “Under Muslim Brotherhood President [Mohamed] Morsi, there has been constant instability, and the systematic exclusion and silencing of all official minority political opposition. This has resulted in massive street protests, and the passage of a new constitution that has been widely criticized as lacking any protection of minority political or religious rights. In addition, recent and repeated anti-Semitic and anti-Israel statements by Egyptian government leaders, including President Morsi, calls into serious question whether this government will uphold its commitments under the Camp David Peace Accords, which has kept the peace in the Middle East between these two countries for over four decades.”

Inhofe had called in December for a delay in the F-16 transfer, which the administration rejected.

Its letter in response to Inhofe this month is worth a look: “Egypt continues to play an important role in regional stability and peace, ” assured the State Department. It touted Morsi’s cancellation of a decree that amounted to a power grab and the scheduled elections this spring. No mention was made of Morsi’s series of egregious comments regarding Jews and Israel. The State Department closes by assuring Inhofe that canceling or even delaying the F-16 delivery would “undermine our efforts to address regional security interests. . . .and send a damaging and lasting signal to Egypt’s civilian and military leadership as we work toward a democratic transition in this key Middle Eastern state.”

It couldn’t be more obvious that the administration doesn’t have a clue what Morsi is all about or how to influence his behavior. It seems, I suppose, to the Foggy Bottom crowd that he is the only game in town in Egypt and in the regime. This is preposterous.

We should be deploring Morsi’s move and making clear that the special relationship Egypt enjoys is dependent upon the regime’s behavior. In the region, it’s time to get some new friends. We have elevated Morocco’s relationship with the United States, and we should continue to build on that relationship. Had we managed to leave troops in Iraq, we certainly would have been in a better position to check Iran’s ambitions. And of course there is Israel, our only solid, democratic ally in the region. Now is the time to show absolute solidarity, not to delivery pre-election insults to the Israeli people.

It is worth asking Chuck Hagel and any other national security nominees a series of questions about Egypt:

  • Did the sale of F-16s encourage Morsi to crack down on his people?
  • Had we known he would crack down, would we still have sent the weaponry?
  • What is the military purpose for the F-16s?
  • What guarantees did we get from Morsi about his government’s conduct or its domestic behavior in exchange for releasing the planes?
  • How will we respond to Morsi’s anti-democratic moves and the rise in violence against Christians in Egypt — or, as will likely be the case, a failure to live up to Egypt’s security obligations regarding Gaza?
  • Why should any secular, democratic groups in the Middle East think we are serious about human rights?
  • Have we miscalculated the Muslim Brotherhood?

Really, one suspects that not even the latest crackdown will shake the administration’s confidence in Morsi. You have to wonder why, in the face of a mound of evidence to the contrary, the Obama team keeps enabling a Islamist despot.

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F-16's in hand, Morsi cracks down on Egptians