Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Don't Expect The Egyptian Coup To Be Anything Like The Honduran One

Remember the Honduran coup in 2009?

Here is a quick recap by Hot Air of what happened in Honduras:
In a nutshell, Zelaya wanted another term as president so he decided to hold a popular referendum on whether he should be eligible. Minor problem: The Honduran constitution can’t be amended by popular referendum so the country’s supreme court ordered the vote canceled. Zelaya tried to go ahead with it anyway. Literally every other arm of the Honduran government — judiciary, legislature, military — was against him, to the point where the troops who arrested him this morning were evidently acting on a court order. Why such strong, unified opposition? According to one retired Honduran general cited by Fausta, it’s because Zelaya’s a Chavez stooge and him staying on would mean “Chavez would eventually be running Honduras by proxy.”
The Obama administration, barely 6 months into its first term came down hard on Honduras:

Reaction to the apparent coup was swift. U.S. President Barack Obama said he was “deeply concerned” and called on all political actors in Honduras to “respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Any existing tensions and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference,” he said.

The Obama administration worked in recent days to prevent President Zelaya’s ouster, a senior U.S. official said. The State Department, in particular, communicated to Honduran officials on the ground that President Obama wouldn’t support any non-democratic transfer of power in the Central American country.

“We had some indication” that a move against Mr. Zelaya was a foot, said a U.S. official briefed on the diplomacy. “We made it clear it was something we didn’t support.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined Mr. Obama Sunday in criticizing the Honduran coup and calling for the restoration of the democratic process.

“We call on all parties in Honduras to respect the constitutional order and the rule of law, to reaffirm their democratic vocation, and to commit themselves to resolve political disputes peacefully and through dialogue,” Mrs. Clinton said in a statement.
Back in 2009, Obama was still riding the wave of his popularity and by May 2011 it had finally achieved its goal, as Legal Insurrection wrote: Obama’s Greatest Foreign Policy Victory – Manuel Zelaya Returns To Honduras:
The Obama administration has not had many foreign policy victories. But it just consummated a long hoped-for victory in Honduras with the return of former President Manuel Zelaya, a close ally of Hugo Chavez.

Zelaya was forced into exile after Zelaya tried to extend his term as President in violation of the Honduran constitution. Zelaya was deposed by the military acting on orders of the Honduran Supreme Court and the Honduran Congress.

Throughout 2009 the U.S. orchestrated intense pressure on Honduras, including facilitating the exclusion of Honduras from the Organization of American States, threatened sanctions, and disruption of the ability of Honduran officials to travel to the United States.
Pity poor Mubarak, who did not see anything close to the kind of support that Zelaya did.
Pity poor Morsi, who is likewise unlikely to see Obama to go to the same lengths to return him to power.

Protest banner
Banner with the Arabic word "Leave" in reference to Mubarak in during the
2011 Egyptian protests. The Egyptian people spoke again -- and the Egyptian army heard them, even if Obama didn't. Credit: Wiki Commons

Even if Obama wanted to get involved:
  • Obama does not have the same kind of political capital he had back then
  • Unlike Honduras, when millions of Egyptians rise up and say they want their leader out, it is hard to argue with them.
  • Considering the Egyptian Army is overseeing the transition, there is just that much less of a chance for Obama to do anything but wring his hands over his having backed the losing horse.
  • Unlike in the case of Honduras, other countries -- led by Russia -- are likely to criticize the Obama administration for prying into others' affairs

In the end, Obama will be on the sidelines this time around -- and will still end up losing favor with the Egyptian people. That may not matter that much, since the army will still want what the US can provide, but US influence will be lessened.

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