Egypt, once the linchpin of U.S. policy in the Muslim world, is in nearly total disarray. After weeks of rioting in Cairo and other cities along the Nile, our detached commander in chief finally said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had to go. When a military junta -- encouraged by the Obama administration -- replaced Mubarak on Feb. 10, White House officials babbled euphorically about an "Arab spring" and a "new era of democracy."
It hasn't happened. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, now running things in Cairo, has put Mubarak on trial but has proved to be unable to restore law and order, stem inflation or improve employment opportunities for young Egyptians. Tourism, once the source of nearly 20 percent of the Egyptian economy, is nonexistent. Virulently anti-Western candidates endorsed by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party are expected to dominate parliamentary elections in October.
Worse still, the Egyptian army, long regarded by Washington to be a stabilizing force in the region, now appears to be less capable of keeping radical Islamic terror elements in check. A pipeline across the Egyptian-controlled Sinai Desert -- providing fuel to both Israel and Jordan -- has been targeted five times since February. And this past week, terrorists killed eight Israelis and wounded 25 more near the Red Sea port of Eilat. Israeli security officials say the perpetrators were Hamas gunmen from Gaza who transited the Egyptian Sinai security zone into Israel.
Apparently, the bloody assault in Eilat caught the attention of the very distracted folks at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and made them realize that things aren't all they should be in the Middle East. The White House eventually released a three-line written statement condemning the attack. But first, the White House press office announced new measures to be taken against the oppressive, Iranian-supported regime in Syria.
According to this statement, also issued without further comment from Obama, our president finally has decided that Bashar Assad should "step aside" in Damascus and that a new executive order with "unprecedented sanctions" will "deepen the financial isolation of the Assad regime." A careful reading of the executive order reveals that it does little more than bar U.S. citizens and companies from doing business in Syria. It's disingenuous and not much different from the futile restrictions currently imposed on Iran for its nuclear weapons program.
To be effective, real sanctions must bar all individuals and companies -- U.S.-based or not -- from doing business in Syria if they want to do business in America. But that would require formulating a genuine Mideast policy and a viable national energy policy and having real leadership. It's a lot easier to simply go on vacation and issue a news release.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.