David Goldman shows, among other things, that the Egyptian coup signals that Saudi Arabia, not the U.S., will have the leading foreign role in Egypt’s affairs going forward. At the risk of sounding unpatriotic, that’s probably a good thing for Egypt under the present circumstances.
I have suggested, and Goldman goes a long way towards demonstrating, that the Egyptian turmoil is more about economics than politics. The Saudis might just be able to keep Egypt financially afloat and better fed.
Moreover, even from a political point of view, Egypt is probably better off taking its cues from the Saudis than from President Obama. As Goldman says: “The notion that [the Muslim Brotherhood’s] band of Jew-hating jihadi thugs might become the vehicle for a transition to a functioning Muslim democracy was perhaps the stupidest notion to circulate in Washington in living memory.”
But military control propped up by Saudi economic support is not a long-term answer. For one thing, it’s far from clear that the Saudi regime will remain in power over that term.
In my opinion, the long-term answer, if Egypt has one, resides in the rise of freedom and democracy as Islamism recedes (waves of that sort of religious fanaticism tend to). Unfortunately, with the Saudis behind them, it’s far from clear that the Egyptian military will take even baby steps in the direction of freedom and democracy.
We see here another significant failure of the Obama administration. Instead of trying to work with the military — the only force capable of countering the Muslim Brotherhood — to ease Egypt down the road to freedom and democracy, Obama bet on the Brotherhood, a losing horse and an evil one.
Presumably, he thereby earned the contempt of the military, which is now in charge. At a minimum, he ensured that the military will take its cues from the anti-democracy Saudis.
But as I said, this may be better, all things considered, than the alternative right now. It’s not easy to disagree with Goldman’s assessment that the judgment of Prince Bandar is preferable to that of John Kerry, Susan Rice, or John McCain.