Bungling in Egypt

I was assured–both in 2008 and 2012–that if Barack Obama were elected and re-elected president, we would have a mature, capable, intelligent, savvy foreign policy team that would undo the supposed congenital Bush administration tendency of losing friends and influencing nobody. Heck, I recall being assured in 2004 that if John Kerry were elected president, we would have a mature, capable, intelligent, savvy foreign policy team that would undo the supposed congenital Bush administration tendency of losing friends and influencing nobody.

Now we have Barack Obama elected and re-elected president. And while we don’t have John Kerry as president and likely never will (watch these words come back to bite me someday. But until then . . .), we do have him as secretary of state; a job he wanted almost as badly as he wanted the presidency. And the result of all of this in the Egyptian context is that we are losing Egypt:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry backed away Friday from his candid comments that seemed to signal American support for the Egyptian military coup and the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi.

The U.S. has tried hard not to appear as if it is taking sides in the crisis. But when Kerry said Thursday in Pakistan that the Egyptian military was ‘‘’restoring democracy’’ in leading the July 3 coup, it left the impression that the U.S. backed the military action. Kerry moved quickly to defuse the flap, saying on Friday that all parties — the military as well as pro-Morsi demonstrators — needed to work toward a peaceful and ‘‘’inclusive’’ political resolution of the crisis.

His backpedaling came after his comments were denounced by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which insists that the democratically elected Morsi is the legitimate leader of Egypt.

‘‘Does Secretary Kerry accept Defense Secretary (Chuck) Hagel to step in and remove (U.S. President Barack) Obama if large protests take place in America?’’ a spokesman of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Gehad el-Haddad, asked.

The flap over Kerry’s remarks came at a bad time. Just as Kerry was in London trying to clarify his statement from the day before, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns was landing in Cairo to urge Egyptian leaders to avoid violence and help facilitate a political exit strategy to end the stalemate that has paralyzed Egypt and deeply divided the country.

I think it is safe to say that we have enraged both sides of the Egyptian equation. We have enraged the pro-Morsi/Muslim Brotherhood side by claiming that Morsi’s ouster was absolutely, positively, totally, completely and entirely not a coup, which is now about as silly as claiming that Anthony Weiner did not engage in sexting. I am no fan of Morsi or the Muslim Brotherhood, and I have a hard time getting worked up about the fact that they in particular have been ousted. But let’s face it; Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood did get elected. And when they get removed from power by the military, it’s kind of hard to claim that the process that removed them wasn’t a coup. The Obama administration likes to claim that because the military hasn’t taken over in the aftermath of the Morsi/Muslim Brotherhood ouster, there was no coup. To which my reply would be the following: If the United States military ousted President Obama from power and, say, eliminated Democratic control of the United States Senate, installed Mitt Romney in the White House, made Mitch McConnell the Senate majority leader, and then retreated back to the position it currently occupies in our non-hypothetical, entirely real world, would any of us refrain from calling this a coup?

I thought not.

So the pro-Morsi/Muslim Brotherhood side–which again, won an election and has a lot of support amongst the Egyptians whose hearts and minds we would ideally like to make our own–really doesn’t like us right about now. As for the military, they now probably don’t like us because our secretary of state signaled support for their actions, and then went back on his comments as fast as humanly possible, which along with other bureaucratic blunders mentioned in the article, makes one wonder who exactly is in charge in Foggy Bottom, and in other buildings where American foreign policy is crafted and implemented.

And this is the crowd that was supposed to restore America’s standing in the world?