Obama Avoids the Law Again

U.S. law generally prohibits foreign assistance to “the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.” You might think that this is a problem for Egypt, whose military recently deposed the elected head of government and is now beginning to crack down on dissenters. President Obama is not so sure.

In a bizarre interpretation of the law, the Administration has apparently decided that it does not have to decide what happened in Egypt. As one official told the New York Times: “We will not say it was a coup, we will not say it was not a coup, we will just not say.” The Administration is not releasing the legal reasoning behind this novel position.

President Morsi was an incompetent leader. But some in Obama’s party have said the same about recent U.S. presidents. We did not depose them. As bad as Morsi was, the generals are likely to be far worse over the long-term. Their suffocation of Egypt’s civil society and economy will continue, but now there is unlikely to be any democratic check against it. While the mandatory cutoff of aid may have inconvenienced the administration, the law is supposed to be the law.

This Administration has made a travesty of U.S. policy in the Middle East. Faced with an historic chance to side with the economic and political dreams of the vast majority of Arabs, it has time and again been paralyzed by fear and indecision. When so many in these countries hope for a life like ours, we have focused on the threat posed by a few Islamic radicals rather than on the tremendous benefits of having these countries become full participants in the modern world. And we have probably missed a rare opportunity to cleave the anti-American bloc of Iran, Hezbollah, and Syria by ensuring the fall of the Assad regime. Indeed by not acting we have helped ensure what we most feared: a steady dissent into prolonged broader sectarian conflict that threatens the neighboring countries.

Even if one were to overlook incompetence, illegality is another matter. This Administration has a strong disregard for any legal constraints that hamper its ability to pursue its goals. This cute refuge in blindness is only the latest insult to plain language and common sense. A democracy is not supposed to work that way.


1 Comment

Filed under Egypt

One response to “Obama Avoids the Law Again

  1. Charles


    I agree.

    As a small government conservative, I believe we should oppose the unitary executive theory, that holds that neither the Congress nor the courts can direct the Executive branch or constrain the execution of any powers granted to the Executive by the Constitution or statute.

    Although it pleased the previous Administration to embrace that theory, it was inevitable that this Obama Administration would seize upon that as precedent and further abuse that theory.

    Conservatives must stand for the rule of law, and for the Constitutional principle of checks and balances.

    Moreover, Conservatives must fight for those principles because they are right, nor merely because they are convenient.

    For example, I have been disappointed to see that in the whole NSA mess, that some Republicans have sided with the notion that there should be a secret body of law, including secret judicial interpretations of the Constitution, unknown to the American people and to even other jurists, that affects the rights of all Americans.

    So, yes, I agree with you.

    But, I believe that the cancer of this departure from the principles of democracy and the rule of law is even more serious, and requires that the Congress be far more assertive and do so on the basis of principle rather than on the basis of expediency or tactical advantage.

    Yet, I would say that I am not sanguine regarding the prospects of such potential action.

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