The historian Niall Ferguson was featured first in Newsweek, and then on Joe Scarborough’s program on MSNBC. Below are some excerpts from the magazine article:
Wanted: A Grand Strategy for America
“The statesman can only wait and listen until he hears the footsteps of God resounding through events; then he must jump up and grasp the hem of His coat, that is all.” Thus Otto von Bismarck, the great Prussian statesman who united Germany and thereby reshaped Europe’s balance of power nearly a century and a half ago.
Last week, for the second time in his presidency, Barack Obama heard those footsteps, jumped up to grasp a historic opportunity ... and missed it completely.
In Bismarck’s case it was not so much God’s coattails he caught as the revolutionary wave of mid-19th-century German nationalism. And he did more than catch it; he managed to surf it in a direction of his own choosing. The wave Obama just missed — again — is the revolutionary wave of Middle Eastern democracy. It has surged through the region twice since he was elected: once in Iran in the summer of 2009, the second time right across North Africa, from Tunisia all the way down the Red Sea to Yemen. But the swell has been biggest in Egypt, the Middle East’s most populous country.
In each case, the president faced stark alternatives. He could try to catch the wave, Bismarck style, by lending his support to the youthful revolutionaries and trying to ride it in a direction advantageous to American interests. Or he could do nothing and let the forces of reaction prevail. In the case of Iran, he did nothing, and the thugs of the Islamic Republic ruthlessly crushed the demonstrations. This time around, in Egypt, it was worse. He did both — some days exhorting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to leave, other days drawing back and recommending an “orderly transition.”
The result has been a foreign-policy debacle. The president has alienated everybody: not only Mubarak’s cronies in the military, but also the youthful crowds in the streets of Cairo. Whoever ultimately wins, Obama loses. And the alienation doesn’t end there. America’s two closest friends in the region — Israel and Saudi Arabia — are both disgusted. The Saudis, who dread all manifestations of revolution, are appalled at Washington’s failure to resolutely prop up Mubarak. The Israelis, meanwhile, are dismayed by the administration’s apparent cluelessness.
This failure was not the result of bad luck. It was the predictable consequence of the Obama administration’s lack of any kind of coherent grand strategy, a deficit about which more than a few veterans of U.S. foreign policy making have long worried. The president himself is not wholly to blame. Although cosmopolitan by both birth and upbringing, Obama was an unusually parochial politician prior to his election, judging by his scant public pronouncements on foreign-policy issues.
There’s much more in the full article, which is recommended reading.
Below is a video of Niall Ferguson’s appearance on MSNBC:
This is refreshing analysis, especially by MSM standards. It’s a pity the public discussion about the Muslim Brotherhood couldn’t have started long ago, before the first hint of trouble in North Africa.
One suspects that certain members of the Obama administration are all too aware of the nature and intentions of the Ikhwan, both in Egypt and the United States. Their function, however, is to make sure that the rest of the government — and the country — remain in the dark.
Hat tips: DF and KGS.