December 10, 2013
Involvement never goes as plannedFriday, August 23, 2013
History shows US intervention is not the solution
By Walter Pincus
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — “Our ability to influence the outcome in Egypt is limited.” That was Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel speaking truth about power to reporters this week.
He went on: “It’s up to the Egyptian people. And they are a large, great, sovereign nation. And it will be their responsibility . . . to sort this out.”
Can US citizens begin to understand that even the most powerful country in the world still cannot control other countries?
Go back to the post-World War II era, when for a period the United States did control what went on in other countries.
Monday marked the 60th anniversary of the United States exercising its dominance when it engineered, with the British, the overthrow of the elected Iranian government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq.
“The military coup that overthrew Mossadeq and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of US foreign policy,” an internal CIA report titled The Battle for Iran reads. The risk of leaving Iran “open to Soviet aggression,” it adds,“ compelled the United States to act.”
Over the long term, similar US Cold War actions in Guatemala, Cuba, Vietnam and Nicaragua have overall had a negative effect. The limits of exercising power and influence have become apparent.
In 2011, the Obama administration was criticized for supporting Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak for too long when the Arab Spring generated public opposition to his rule. The White House was then criticized for supporting Mohammed Morsi’s election because of his Muslim Brotherhood connection and for continuing that support as protests mounted against him. Now critics knock the administration for not cutting off assistance to the regime for its attacks on Brotherhood members and their civilian backers.
In almost every circumstance, there were groups, people claiming to be experts and even politicians in this country who voiced a different view: the United States should help keep Mubarak in power, not accept Morsi because of his political connections, and now support the Egyptian military.
The real question is how much do US citizens know or care about Egypt? According to a Pew Research Centre poll released, about half of US citizens say they are following news from Egypt not too closely or not at all closely.
The Obama administration has been limiting military aid to Egypt while using back channels to press the message that the Cairo regime should change course. Last month, delivery of US F-16 fighters was suspended; more recently, a joint US-Egyptian military exercise was cancelled; and soon, a shipment of 12 helicopters will be delayed. About US$585 million in military aid to Egypt remains to be spent before September 30, much of which would go to US military contractors. That funding is under review, the State Department said.
On CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., insisted: “There is no policy, and there is no strategy. And therefore, we react and we react poorly.”
It’s true the country mostly reacts when it comes to foreign policy. It’s what we did in World War I, World War II and Korea. Iran in 1953, Cuba and Vietnam in 1961 and Iraq in 2003 are examples of instances in which Washington took the initiative to try to influence the makeup of a foreign government. We know how those efforts turned out.