Washington walking awkwardly in Egypt

Washington walking awkwardly in Egypt
US President Barack Obama makes a statement on Egypt August 15, 2013, in Chilmark, Massachusetts.

UNITED STATES - "Walk Like an Egyptian" - the title of the 1986 hit by the Bangles - was inspired by a scene in ancient Egyptian reliefs that songwriter Liam Sternberg had seen.

It showed people walking awkwardly to keep their balance. The music video that accompanied the single showed celebrities such as Princess Diana and Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi dancing in the postures depicted in the reliefs.

In a way, that's the kind of diplomatic posture President Barack Obama and his administration have been maintaining during the recent political crisis in Egypt.

In fact, since the start of the anti-government demonstrations in Tahrir Square in Cairo two years ago, ushering in the so-called Arab Spring, US policy towards Egypt could be compared to a series of odd movements in response to the fast-moving developments there.

Indeed, when it comes to US policy towards Egypt, Mr Obama, "the Fred Astaire of politics - graceful and elegant", as columnist George Will once described him, seems to have two left feet, and certainly no rhythm. He has been moving awkwardly from side to side and looking left and right in response to unfolding events.

Unlike Fred Astaire, who had Ginger Rogers as his dancing partner, President Obama has been forced to take to the dance floor with the likes of Hosni Mubarak, Muhammad Mursi and now Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. And even the most talented choreographer could not turn these painful encounters into a series of eye-catching dance steps.

So it's not surprising that President Obama and his Egypt policy have been criticised by every side, by members of every US foreign policy wing - liberal internationalists and Republican neoconservatives, left-wing idealists and right-wing non-interventionists - as well as by Middle Eastern governments like Israel and Saudi Arabia.

From the differing perspectives, President Obama should have been more forceful in distancing himself from the dictator Mubarak and in allying himself with the 2011 Tahrir Square demonstrators; or he shouldn't have abandoned long-time US friend Mubarak and shouldn't have welcomed the electoral victory of the Muslim Brotherhood.

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