Obama gets the Egypt-as-ally question wrong coming and going

President Obama claims to have learned that, as president, you can’t “shoot first and aim later.” Yet today, our self-congratulatory chief executive did just that. In an interview on Wednesday night, Obama said of Egypt, “I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy.”

Actually, Egypt is, by law, an ally of the United States. It was designated as a Major Non-NATO Ally in 1989 when Congress first passed the law creating that status. As such, Egypt has special privileges in cooperating with the United States, especially with respect to security and technology.

Today, the White House had to walk back Obama’s “shoot first” response. Administration sources said that the president’s “ally” comment was not pre-arranged or prepared by staff and that the question was not anticipated.

I guess Obama thinks he’s entitled to a do-over because he wasn’t reading from a teleprompter.

Unfortunately, the do-ever hasn’t gone well either. The administration states that Obama didn’t intend to signal any change in the U.S.-Egypt relationship by virtue of his initial “not our ally” comment. But this is precisely what Obama should be signaling. The current Egyptian regime is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, the sworn enemy of the U.S. It is a repressive, Islamist operation that now has, at a minimum, failed to act responsibly in the face of a major threat to the safety of U.S. personnel.

Clearly, then, Obama needed to demonstrate that our relationship with Egypt is affected by these events. Indeed, this is what Obama probably intended initially to do, as even some of his apologists say. His error resided not (for once) in his intention, but rather in his facts. But now Obama has compounded the error by disavowing the intention.

One would expect no less from a man so deeply admired by John Kerry on foreign policy matters.


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