As President Obama released a 9/11 message praising the Arab Spring, protesters in Cairo, Egypt were storming the U.S. embassy and ripping down the American flag. In shades of Jimmy Carter’s hostage crisis in 1979 that put the exclamation mark on a failed presidency, the disparity between rhetoric and reality in Obama’s foreign policy will add a precarious dimension to his re-election bid.
What the American people need to understand about foreign relations under Obama is that they are a reflection of his domestic policies. This is not always the case, but the “primacy of the domestic” is a key to understanding the Obama foreign policy.
The mainstream media will do their best to bury the Egyptian uprising story the way they buried the “fast and furious” scandal. Or else they will attempt to spin the protesters as “far, far, far right religious extremists” and “ultra-conservatives” and thus not representative of the Egyptian populace (which just elected the Muslim Brotherhood to power and even more hardline Islamists).
But Barack Obama has been a vocal supporter of the “democratic” Arab Spring movement, which brought to power radical Islamist groups across the Middle East, including the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. President Obama intervened in Egyptian politics to help remove former president Hosni Mubarak, which ushered in martial law and a stand-off between the military government and competing Islamist parties. The Muslim Brotherhood-backed presidential candidate Mohammed Morsi eventually won election and the Islamist group, through the Freedom and Justice Party, took a plurality of seats in the parliament.
President Obama said in his 9/11 address released to the Arab Forum that “during this Arab Spring we’ve been inspired by the courage of ordinary citizens determined to forge their own future.” It’s a pity that throughout the Middle East, democracy means bringing radicals to power who will curb the people’s “universal rights” and thus limit their futures. There was a true democratic uprising in Iran early on in Barack Obama’s term and the president failed to talk about it for ten days.
Speaking of Iran, the Egyptian uprising reminds one of the storming of the Iranian embassy three decades ago. In 1979, an ongoing hostage crisis after an Iranian uprising eroded the base of support for the Jimmy Carter presidency. A failed Iranian hostage rescue, dismal presidential nomination speech, and inept debate performance exacerbated widespread economic dissatisfaction and led to a nearly ten point win for Ronald Reagan in 1980. After 444 days of the Iranian hostage crisis, Ronald Reagan ended it immediately after coming to office in 1981.
Many political observers felt the Iranian debacle sunk the Jimmy Carter campaign, which was leading early in 1980. A Harris-Interactive poll shows how dramatically the media were hyping the “Carter comeback” — it had Jimmy Carter up by 34 points against Reagan among likely voters in January 1980. So political observers shouldn’t be too surprised if the media fudge numbers for Obama by four to six points.
A president that doesn’t get the difference between “democracy” and individual rights on the international level, sure doesn’t get it here in the United States either. A novice in foreign affairs and an economic disaster at home, Barack Obama’s first term is worse than the second term of Jimmy Carter.