Cliff May

Obama, last week, waxed optimistic. He said that in Egypt, “the moral force of nonviolence … bent the arc of history toward justice once more.” The examples above, however, suggest that an immoral force of violence is bending a competing arc of history toward Islamist totalitarianism.

No national security challenge looms larger. Yet key advisors to Obama seem clueless. Testifying before Congress last week, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was asked about the Muslim Brotherhood – an organization that is to Islamism akin to what the Comintern was to Communism. He called the Brotherhood, “a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence.” A spokesman was later sent out from the Director’s office to “clarify” that ludicrous statement. Your tax dollars at work.

Your money also has been invested in Egypt’s military. Over the past three decades, American officers should have taught Egyptian officers, by word and example, what it means to be a professional soldier: The U.S. military is stronger, not weaker, because it doesn’t aspire to run the government, because it keeps politics and politicians at arm’s length.

The mission of Egypt’s military at this juncture ought to be straightforward: clear a space in which a democratic culture can develop – and then protect that space from anti-democratic forces. Egypt’s ruling officers should guarantee freedom of speech, the press and worship -- not least for Egypt’s persecuted Christian minority. They should make it possible for new political parties to organize and put forward ideas, principles, policies and candidates in safety.

If Egypt’s military is not up to this task, America’s investment has been wasted. It’s nice, I suppose, that there are Egyptian pilots who can fly F16s but, really, how does that benefit the average Egyptian or American?

And no, I don’t buy the argument that we equipped and trained the Egyptian military in exchange for a promise not to use that equipment and training against Israel. Egypt’s military leaders are not stupid. They know it would not be their interest, or Egypt’s, to fight another war against the Jewish state. They know that even with guns and skills made in America they likely would lose were they to attack people whose back is against the wall – almost literally. Another Egyptian defeat would bring humiliation and other inconveniences.

Of course, Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood take a different view. Sacrificing a generation of two of Egyptians in exchange for the annihilation of the Zionist entity would, in their calculation, represent a bargain – not for the Egyptian nation but for the Nation of Islam.

How can American power be used to support those in Egypt and elsewhere who share our commitment to human rights? How can American power be used to weaken the enemies of freedom, those who want to destroy us, our allies and the entire democratic experiment?

The answer to those questions is the foundation upon which coherent, effective policies can be constructed and implemented. But that requires not just talking like an Egyptian. It also means walking the walk. And, yes, those who do that will look a lot like neocons.

Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.