Thursday, August 22, 2013

What Were They Thinking?



You may recall the presidential election of the year 2000. The election was very close, the winner would have to get a majority in the State of Florida. According to some observers, there were a good number of irregularities in the Florida voting. The governor of Florida was the brother of the Republican candidate, George W. Bush. The secretary of state, Kathleen Harris, was a high level Republican functionary. A conservative Supreme Court threw the election to the Republican candidate, George Bush. The Republicans stole the election.

This story is widely accepted, although, obviously, not everybody believes it. There was then, and still is, disagreement about that presidential election.

Now imagine this scenario. The then president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, sends two of his trusted advisors to the United States. They talk to various notables, particularly in Florida, and make a number of public statements such as: "The status quo is unacceptable. Some things got to give" and "Our purpose is to try to encourage our friends towards a process that can avert a very serious situation that can affect not only the United States, but also [the entire Western Hemisphere.]"

What do you think public reactions in our country would have been to these Egyptians coming here and being critical of our political process and telling us what we should do? Public protests, burning the Egyptian flag and the picture of Hosni Mubarak? Without doubt. Would some people have gone so far as to smash shop windows in stores owned by Egyptians? Very possibly. Might there have been an attack on the Egyptian Embassy in Washington DC? Who knows.

You get the picture. We would have been terribly upset if Egyptians had interfered in our domestic affairs and in our presidential election. That is surely obvious.

But that does not stop Pres. Obama from sending Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham to Egypt to comment publicly on the military takeover of the government and the arrest of the previously elected President Mohamed Morsi. The statements I ascribed to the imaginary Egyptians coming to the US after the 2000 presidential elections were actually quotes—suitably edited-- from what McCain and Graham had to say what they were in Egypt. In international diplomacy – if you can call it that – the Golden Rule does not apply. We do not hesitate to do to others what we should definitely resent if it were done to us.

No doubt, the United States is a larger country than Egypt. Our military is more powerful – read that as 'is capable of much greater destruction' – than the Egyptian military. We are richer and, of course, have a much larger public debt than Egypt. But does any of this justify this bullying, this acting the big brother who knows better, this being the people without whose good advice other countries will make horrible mistakes?

What were they thinking?

Pres. Ronald Reagan used to refer to Mexico and to all of Latin America as "our backyard." Has Egypt and the entire Mideast become our backyard because we brought death and destruction to two countries in the region? If we need to meddle in the affairs of other countries, do we need to do it publicly by trying to humiliate them while actually seriously embarrassing ourselves?

The whole episode is terribly awkward. It does not make one proud to be an American.