In a phone call to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, President Obama lectured the Muslim Brotherhood's most visible national leader on Democracy 101. The White House released a statement Tuesday summarizing the call, noting Obama told Morsi "that the United States is committed to the democratic process in Egypt and does not support any single party or group." Obama encouraged Morsi to "take steps to show that he is responsive to [the Egyptian people's] concerns." This is a far cry from 2011, when Obama urged then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down. After Mubarak agreed, Obama said during a press conference that the transition to a new government "must begin now."
Back to 2013: In Monday's chat with Morsi, Obama also "stressed that democracy is about more than elections; it is also about ensuring that the voices of all Egyptians are heard and represented by their government, including the many Egyptians demonstrating throughout the country." Funny he should say that, considering that IRS harassment of Obama's Tea Party critics just happened to occur on his watch.
The current woes in Egypt and a potential second "Arab Spring" point to the abject failure of Obama's "leading from behind" foreign policy strategy first marked by his apology speech in Cairo in 2009. A more accurate way of describing the Obama foreign policy would be "dragged into action," as was most recently demonstrated in Syria. There, despite Obama's repeated threats, including the invocation of the red line that was not to be crossed, opposition forces in the region pleaded for months for more U.S. aid, even as Bashir Assad slaughtered thousands of his countrymen. Only after Assad used chemical weapons did Obama announce he would send weapons to the opposition. No word on how those weapons will be kept away from al Qaeda, as Obama failed to do in his Libyan intervention.
When Obama's rhetoric has moved events, as in Egypt in 2011, it was in the wrong direction. Following Mubarak's departure, the Muslim Brotherhood terrorist outfit guided Morsi, who has been clear his goal is establishing a sharia-based authoritarian regime. Similarly, Iraq became more violent after Obama summarily withdrew U.S. combat forces, and, of course, there is the matter of Iran's steady march to becoming a nuclear power.
Despite this record of failure, Obama continues to "lead from behind," with a senior administration official suggesting Morsi call for early elections. "We are saying to him, 'Figure out a way to go for new elections,' " the official said, even as an estimated three million protesters have taken to the streets in Egypt demanding Morsi's removal. The one stabilizing factor in the crisis is, as it was in 2011, the Egyptian military, which continues to be popular among citizens. Perhaps Obama should just stop lecturing Egyptian leaders and others in the Middle East and "pivot" back to issues here at home, like jobs and the economy.