Sunday, February 27, 2011

Why Policy Forces the U.S. Government to Become the Muslim Brotherhood's Press Agent

By Barry Rubin

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Select Intelligence Committee recently that he thinks the Muslim Brotherhood is against the Egypt-Israel peace treaty but isn't really sure and also doesn't know much about the Muslim Brotherhood.

Clapper earlier famously said that the Muslim Brotherhood is a secular and moderate group. Is Clapper that stupid? Well, he was stupid to go so far as to say that the Brotherhood is secular but the rest seems policy-oriented.

Remember that the Obama Administration earlier said (without being asked) that it would accept the Brotherhood in an Egyptian government if it met two very vague conditions--rejecting violence and supported democratic goals--which U.S. officials said had already been fulfilled. Since everyone seems to think that the Brotherhood has somehow already rejected violence (it hasn't, it just doesn't use violence within Egypt and thinks that terrorism abroad is just dandy), this shouldn't be much of a barrier.

Policy often reasons backward. Since the Obama Administration has accepted a Brotherhood role in government, it cannot say that the Brotherhood is radical Islamist, pro-terrorist, antisemitic, seeks to wipe Israel off the map, and will do everything it can to help Hamas. Because if the U.S. government does say such things the next question from a member of Congress or the media would be: then how could you possibly accept its role in Egypt's government and seek a dialogue with such a group?

So the policy must make the analysis stupid. Of course, this is a major mistake by the Obama Administration. It has painted itself into a corner in which it cannot say anything bad about the Brotherhood or try to urge (or even help) the Egyptian military to keep the Brotherhood out of power. It and the supportive media also thus need to suppress quoting what the Brotherhood says in Arabic about such things.

In short, the U.S. government has paralyzed itself from doing anything to combat or even publicize the greatest threat to democracy and stability in Egypt. Or, to put it another way, U.S policy scored an "own goal" and thinks it won the game.

Note: "own goal" is a football (soccer) term for when a team accidentally kicks the ball into its own net, thus giving a point to the other team. The closest American football equivalent would be a safety, though in this case it is a reduction of safety for everyone in America and everyone in the Middle East.

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