Riding high on his U.S. manufactured diplomatic triumph, Morsi grabs authoritarian powers at home

Yesterday, in commenting on President Obama’s apparent conclusion that the Muslim Brotherhood represents the wave of the future in the Middle East, I noted the unimpressive nature of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s electoral victory. But it is not popularity that makes Morsi and the Brotherhood look like the wave of the future. Rather, it is their will to power — the same sort of will that made Hitler and Stalin look like the wave of the future to Obama’s predecessors in Hegelian thinking.

Now we lrarn that Morsi, in the words of the Washington Post, has taken “extensive new powers for himself, freeing his decisions from judicial review and ordering retrials for former top officials including ex-president Hosni Mubarak. In “an announcement read on state television by Morsi’s spokesman and broadcast repeatedly with accompanying nationalistic songs,” the Egyptian people were informed, among other things, that all decisions made by Morsi since he took office in June are final and not subject to appear or review.

Morsi’s power grab follows his diplomatic triumph, manufactured by Obama, on behalf of Hamas. Having become the Protector of Gaza and the alleged Guarantor of Israeli Security, why shouldn’t Morsi also declare himself the Dear Leader, or (as some are saying) the New Pharaoh, of Egypt?

Given the importance to Egypt of U.S. money, it’s clear enough that the Obama administration has no real objection to Morsi’s power grab. As Shadi Hamid, an Egypt expert at the Brookings Institution put it, “There is a real danger of returning to the Mubarak-era situation where the U.S. really cares about the foreign policy and turns a blind eye to domestic abuses.”

But there’s a huge difference between current U.S. policy towards Egypt and its policy during the Mubarak era. Before, the foreign policy quid pro quo of a “blind eye” from the U.S. was the willingness to serve as a bulwark of U.S. interests in the region, including our interest in the security of Israel. But Morsi gets the same favorable treatment while tilting Egypt towards Iran and reordering Egypt’s relationship with Israel.

One can only assume that Morsi’s policies with respect to Iran and Israel, like his moves towards authoritarian rule, are fine with Obama. Indeed, it’s doubtful that, for Obama, the Arab Spring that he welcomed was ever about the triumph of democracy. More likely, it was always about the triumph of radicalism — the wave of the future.

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