Two different articles illustrate very nicely what Dan Drezner identified as the “exhausting” worldview of neoconservatives. One warns about the impending “loss” of Egypt to Russia, and the other says that Americans must start preparing for “Pax Iranica” in the Near East. Both are alarmist and inaccurate, but beyond that they share the anxiety that U.S. influence is in danger of collapsing on every front. This usually involves exaggerating how great U.S. influence was in the not-so-distant past, and then pretending that some recent development represents a huge shift in influence in favor of rival states. That also means overreacting to any particular event and investing it with far more importance than it deserves.
According to Berman, the interim nuclear deal with Iran has already “prompted what amounts to a seismic shift in Middle Eastern politics,” but that seems to be almost completely untrue. If there has been a shift in regional politics, it has been as modest as the interim deal itself, and it is only according to a strained hard-liner interpretation that this shift is detrimental for the U.S. Egypt was never really ours to “lose,” but it is hard to see how a fairly small arms sales contract with Russia outweighs Washington’s continued support for the post-coup government.
The lament about Egypt is really just a complaint about the partial suspension of U.S. aid, which is a typical administration decision in that it seems to be designed to please no one. It was just enough to annoy supporters of the post-coup government, but they are the last people who should be displeased with administration policy. The real flaws in the administration’s Egypt policy have been its acceptance of the coup and the failure to suspend all military aid as our law requires. For good or ill, Russia isn’t going to replace the U.S. as Egypt’s patron, so the U.S. shouldn’t make its Egypt policy decisions based on that unfounded fear. The U.S. has alienated all sides in Egypt, but that is a function of U.S. support for whoever happens to be in power there. Our Egypt policy is such a mess in part because Washington is unreasonably afraid of “losing” Egypt, which has led to the short-sighted acceptance of the coup and an inability to adhere to our own rules in dealing with the aftermath.