“But I don’t think we, strategically, put the pieces together for these countries in a way that makes a lot of sense,” the former official said, speaking of a series of administrations. “There’s a limited amount we can do. It’s not about their relationship with the outside world,” he said of the Egyptian military. “This is about the future of their people. However they get there, it’s up to them to decide.”
At risk is a bigger prize, at least from the U.S. point of view: the Egypt-Israel peace treaty. Both Congress and the Israelis think the military is “the best bet in preserving the peace treaty,” said Martin Indyk, who twice served as U.S. ambassador to Israel and now heads the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. “The Israelis are saying don’t screw around with this.”
Indyk’s recently published book, “Bending History,” outlines the “inevitable tension between Obama’s soaring rhetoric and desire for fundamental change . . . and his instinct for governing pragmatically.” And he sees Egypt as offering a prime example. Beyond patience, some aid adjustments, and the administration’s near-constant warnings that America and the world are watching, “there isn’t a better idea out there,” he said. “What are we going to do?”
For the moment, there may be no other good options, said Stephen V. Hadley, who served as George W. Bush’s national security adviser and who has been floated as a possible secretary of state in a Romney administration.
“It’s a bit of a conceit that came out of the Vietnam era, that all would be right with the world if only the United States had the right policies,” Hadley said. “Well, I’m sorry. Would that we had that much control. But we don’t.”
Hadley has plenty of bones to pick with Obama on other issues. But revolutions like that in Egypt, which emerged from decades of dictatorship and suppression of dissent, “are long processes,” he said. “This is hard, what the Egyptians are trying to do. Let's give them a break.”
Hadley’s views are identical to those voiced by senior administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity lest they be seen as trying to interfere.
“The reality is that these processes are, by definition, long-term, generational ones,” one official said. “You can’t measure it by six months, or even a year from now. It’s going to be going on for a long time.”