It’s Time for Washington to Shut Up about Promoting Democracy

The military regime in Cairo continues to kill supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi with Washington’s financial support. The Obama administration is turning hypocrisy into an art form. 

Washington labors under the delusion that it controls the world. The administration insists that it must preserve its influence by giving more money to the generals in Cairo. Yet when has the United States ever exercised influence in Egypt?

For four decades American taxpayers have subsidized dictatorial regimes. The administration tried to save former president Hosni Mubarak from revolution, before supporting his overthrow. Washington’s attempts to convince Morsi to rule more inclusively, and military commander Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi not to stage a coup, failed completely. Now the coup leader is ostentatiously ignoring the administration’s plea that he not force the Muslim Brotherhood underground. 

Yet President Obama refuses to acknowledge the military coup, which under U.S. law would require the cut-off of American aid to Egypt. If that happened, says the administration, Gen. al-Sisi might ignore American advice! 

As I point out in my latest Forbes column:

It would have been better years ago had American officials simply shut up and done nothing. No money would have been wasted.  Washington’s impotence would not have been demonstrated. The U.S. would not be complicit in decades of military rule.

Alas, Egypt is not the first instance in which the U.S. government has managed to look stupid while spending a lot of money. In fact, that is far more the rule than the exception for Washington.

For decades Washington has given away tens of billions of dollars a year for economic “assistance.” Among the lucky recipients?   Crackpot communists such as Nicolae Ceausescu’s Romania and Mengistu Haile Mariam’s Ethiopia.

As in Egypt, local despots quickly learned that U.S. officials hate to admit failure and end assistance. So the money continues to flow no matter what.

Around the world, Washington officials cheerfully talk about the importance of democracy while ostentatiously backing autocracy. Today the hypocrisy is most flagrant in Central Asia and the Middle East. Indeed, the administration praised the “Arab Spring” while supporting repression in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and now Egypt.

Much ink has been recently spilled on preserving American credibility after President Obama made Syrian use of chemical weapons a “red line” for intervention. In fact, Washington routinely draws meaningless red lines around the globe, which are routinely ignored.

American officials never learn!

In Egypt Washington has combined equal parts hypocrisy and futility. U.S. officials are never content to just shut up and stay home. If President Obama wants to leave a positive foreign policy legacy, he should do and say less abroad.