It is not entirely clear what CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield wanted President Barack Obama to say in his remarks on Thursday about the rapidly devolving situation in Egypt, but it is clear she did not like what she heard. Banfield twice suggested that the president’s measured statement, decrying the violence but not going so far as to cut critical ties with the Egyptian military, would be interpreted as “a license to kill” by both sides of the unfolding conflict. Based on events, the president’s statement should be applauded while Banfield’s critique should be dismissed as gratuitous, baseless, and unnecessary.
President Obama announced on Thursday that the U.S. government would be cancelling a joint military exercise with Egypt’s Army to protest their bloody crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. While some are frustrated that his administration has been unwilling to call the ouster of that country’s first democratically elected president a coup, triggering the withdrawal of some $1.3 billion in American aid to that country’s military, the White House is pursuing the correct course.
America’s ties with the Egyptian military are deep and mutually beneficial. They have served as a cornerstone of peace in the region for nearly 40 years. After wrestling Egypt out of the Soviet sphere of influence and establishing a formal peace between that country and Israel in the late 1970s, both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations have acknowledged the significance of that diplomatic achievement of the Carter-era.
America’s relationship with the Egyptian military is now strained. The excessive bloodshed which has followed Morsi’s overthrow and imprisonment has put Obama in a difficult position. He deftly walked that tightrope today. The White House knew that they would be offending reactionary elements on both the left and the right by refusing to go a step further and cancel military aid or seek diplomatic sanctions against Egypt’s military government. That is what is what is often referred to as leadership.
Obama should be praised for this course. Instead, he is mocked by those like Banfield who fret that the president, by insisting that the crisis in Egypt is one that only the people of that country could solve, amounts to a “license to kill.” She later expressed her concern again about “the license to kill that some might have heard in those remarks.” The “some” in that sentence refers to herself.
This is an unfair critique of the president’s statement and a truly misleading summary of the American government’s position in dealing with this complex crisis. What is clear though is that it is Banfield’s remarks, not Obama’s, which are deserving of criticism.
Watch the clip below via CNN:
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