Not to sound like an American exceptionalist, but I dislike it when America gets a lecture. I didn’t like it last year when Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron criticized President Obama for supposedly dragging his heels on military intervention in Libya (especially at a time when Britain was slashing its own defense budget). And I didn’t like it last week when former President Jimmy Carter took to The New York Times opinion pages to deliver a sanctimonious lecture on America’s incongruous human rights record.
Lectures that are thinly veiled as advice are perhaps the most infuriating, particularly when they come from allies. Take for instance the gem that appeared on Foreign Policy’s website yesterday. The op-ed by Ephraim Sneh cautioned the U.S. against the “rise of anti-Western Islamist movements- exemplified this week by the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi in Egypt’s presidential election,” which he then condemned as “a grave threat to U.S.'s interests and values in the Middle East.”
Of course, a former Israeli Defense Forces General like Sneh would not be in the business of endorsing a member of the Brotherhood, but his words echo the same nonsensical, overblown Israeli fear-mongering the U.S. heard a year ago from Prime Minister Netanyahu himself. While the rest of the world looks to a beaming Egypt that is for the first time in its history not under the thumb of a pharaoh, emperor, king, or general, but a wholly democratically elected president, Israel is quick to temper any feelings of goodwill with a lecture about the perils ahead.
Sneh has the gall to tell the next president of the U.S. that he “should recognize Islamist forces are on the move,” likening the Brotherhood’s electoral success in Egypt to the insurgency that has gripped North Waziristan in Pakistan. Sage “advice,” indeed.
No doubt the nature of the U.S.-Egypt relationship has changed, but if the U.S. engages Morsi reasonably and openly, there is no reason why Egypt can’t remain America’s strongest Arab ally. This is a time for dialogue, and our Israeli friends would have us draw an iron curtain on the results part of the “Arab Awakening” has wrought.
When will Israel finally be a good ally? The kind of ally that joins the rest of the world in congratulating Egyptians on their new era without warning about an “Islamist takeover” in the same breath? The kind of ally that distinguishes Mohammed Morsi from Mullah Omar? The kind of ally that recognizes the futility, and frankly the impropriety, in lecturing its old friend and creditor on whom we can and cannot engage in the Arab world?
As far as I can see, the only “grave threat to U.S.'s interests and values in the Middle East” is continuing to heed the “advice” of an ally that does not have our best interests at heart, and has not for some time now. Sneh ends his self-righteous column arguing that “cynics are not the ones who change history- people with faith, vision, and courage do.” So the Egyptians have shown us; it’s the cynics the U.S. now must avoid.