Kerry's support for military coup in Egypt undermines US position in Middle East

Secretary of State John Kerry's said the military coup in Egypt was 'restoring democracy.' This view confirms Muslim Brotherhood claims that the US would rather prop up a military dictatorship than accept an elected Islamic government. Leaders must choose their words accurately.

Amr Nabil/AP
Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohamed Morsi walk past an anti-coup banner near Cairo University in Egypt, Aug. 12. In remarks Aug. 1, Secretary of State John Kerry's said the military takeover was 'restoring democracy,' which Ayaan Hirsi Ali calls 'an impulsive, un-thought-through remark.' Bernard-Henri Levy calls the statement Mr. Kerry's 'first mistake.'

Recently, US Secretary of State John Kerry said in Pakistan that the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi in Egypt was “restoring democracy.” He has since tried to clarified his comment and said that Egypt's "temporary government has a responsibility with respect to demonstrators to give them the space to be able to demonstrate in peace." But his statement continues to make waves. 

Global Viewpoint asked Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali women’s rights activist and author of “Infidel,” and the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, who persuaded then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy to take military action in Libya, to respond to Kerry’s remarks.

It is a mistake for Secretary of State John Kerry, representing President Obama, to have come out with a statement like this. Honestly, when I read it, I thought he must have blurted it out. It seemed like an impulsive, un-thought-through remark.

One consequence of this, in my view, rather foolish endorsement of the military coup in Egypt is that the US confirms what the [Muslim] Brotherhood propagandists have been trying to market: namely, that the US would rather prop up a military dictatorship than accept an elected government if that government is Islamic. I am absolutely no fan of the Brotherhood or Mohamed Morsi, but Kerry just handed the Islamists a huge PR stick, not to mention that the ensuing crisis in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa will now be blamed squarely on the US.

The difficult question for any US administration that is committed to “soft power” in its relationship with the Muslim world is: How can the US promote democracy and help those individuals and groups in the region who share America’s values, and at the same time avoid being accused of double standards and hostility to Islam?

Before Kerry’s words, it appeared hard to pin the usual conspiracy theories on the US. Now, every Islamist demagogue will simply replay Kerry’s words for a good long time to come.

– Ayaan Hirsi Ali

John Kerry has just blemished his otherwise good record as the new US secretary of State by committing his first mistake. One may certainly think badly of the Muslim Brotherhood. I personally believe that its past ideology represented an Arab version of fascism and that it never completely dissociated itself from this terrible past.

However, a military coup that resulted in 250 casualties in just three weeks most certainly does not qualify as “restoring democracy.” Is this simply a matter of semantics? Perhaps, but any leader must choose the accurate words when qualifying current events. Otherwise, he commits a serious political mistake.

— Bernard-Henri Levy

© 2013 Global Viewpoint Network/Tribune Content Agency, LLC. Hosted online by The Christian Science Monitor.

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