Fouad Ajami: Morsi, Obama & the Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship
“I don’t think that we consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy,” President Obama said, on September 12, of the tangled relationship with the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo. “They’re a new government that is trying to find its way,” and there would be some “rocky times” ahead.
The day before, crowds had scaled the wall of the American embassy in Cairo, burning the Stars-and-Stripes, in protest against the video, “The Innocence of Muslims,” that had triggered protests in twenty Muslim nations. No diplomats were killed in Egypt, as they were next door in Benghazi. But an American president obsessed with his election campaign, sure that the foreign world could be held at bay, was reminded of the hazards of imperial power in a fractured Islamic world ever ready for an anti-American riot.
Photo credit: EEAS
“That depends on your definition of ally,” the newly elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi told The New York Times, days later, on the eve of a visit to the United Nations General Assembly meeting. The Americans had been unhappy with the tepid response of Morsi to the riots. He had been passionate about the video, deeply offended by it, but had been slow to condemn the protests. “We took our time,” he said, “but in the end acted decisively.”
He put the Americans on notice, giving them a preview of the difficulties of dealing with a “democratic” government unlikely to show American authorities excessive deference. The “soft Islamists” had come to power, and Washington had to adjust to life after the autocrats.
The harvest of the A