I get the impression Walter Russell Mead is the kind of guy who can tell you with a sad smile how dumb you’ve been while serving you tea and cookies and giving you a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. And get you to agree.
That said, the next three paragraphs are the equivalent of Mead jumping up and down, smashing crockery, and screaming that Team Obama is a bunch of flaming idiots:
The Obama administration has made a fundamental strategic choice that hasn’t worked out well. Officials decided to support the Muslim Brotherhood in the hope of detoxifying US relations in the Middle East and promoting moderation among Islamists across the world. Between Prime Minister Erdogan’s surging authoritarianism in Turkey and the unmitigated Morsi disaster in Egypt, that policy is pretty much a smoking ruin these days, and a shell-shocked administration is stumbling back to the drawing board with, it appears, few ideas about what to try next.
Adding insult to injury, the Obama administration has conducted itself erratically enough to have lost everyone’s respect in the process. It hastily and indecorously ditched long time ally Mubarak and embraced the Muslim Brotherhood only to drop the Brothers when the going got tough. It’s hard to blame anyone in Egypt right now for thinking that the Americans are worthless friends whose assurances are hollow and who will abandon you the minute you get into trouble. At every point along the way, the administration made the choices it did out of good motives, but it would be difficult to design a line of policy more calculated to undermine American prestige and influence than the one we chose.
Rarely has an administration looked as inconsequential and trifling as the Obama administration did this week as it tried to square the circle. It isn’t using the c-word because it doesn’t want to offend the military, but it bleats ineffectually about human rights in hopes of retaining a few shreds of credibility among the supporters of the ousted President. The armed forces appear to be treating the United States with indifference; our support won’t help and our scolding won’t hurt.
Sadly, I don’t think anyone in the administration will learn the lesson or have the least clue how to turn things around, if they can be turned around.
(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)