While Robert Merry accuses Obama of “winging it” on Egypt, the real flaw that he identifies in Obama’s Egypt policy is the tendency to meddle in things that he should leave alone:
But that’s for the Egyptians to decide. What’s the lesson for America? It is that we should stay out of the internal politics of other nations because our involvement inevitably tosses us into inconsistent and even hypocritical postures and makes us look like a sanctimonious nation [bold mine-DL]. Further, such meddling always has unintended consequences. Why did Obama have to get involved in Mubarak’s fate in the first place? What standing did he have to lecture the head of a foreign state—and an ally, at that—on when his time had passed? And what standing did he have to suggest, as he subtly did, what Morsi needed to do to legitimize his rule?
Like other presidents before him, Obama is expected to take positions on unfolding foreign events whether or not he has anything constructive or useful to say about them, and critics conclude that “failing” to take a position is an example of unacceptable passivity. Presidents and their most interventionist critics tend to agree that how other nations resolve their internal political disagreements is somehow the business of the U.S. government, and the critics usually focus on how the president has failed to interfere on the “right” side or how he has not interfered enough to make U.S. “influence” felt. This is the trouble with assuming that the U.S. must exercise “leadership” in response to every crisis and with believing that U.S. interests are at stake in practically every foreign dispute.
The idea that the U.S. shouldn’t try to interfere hardly ever comes up in the debate, because almost everyone in the debate assumes that some degree of interference is necessary and desirable. What the U.S. keeps finding out in Egypt is that it will be blamed for any outcome whether or not it is responsible for it. It would seem wiser to stop trying to perceived as being on the “right” side of the latest disputes, which is bound to fail again and again, and to try instead to insulate the U.S. from them.