At the same time, however, we cannot simply ignore U.S. law because it is inconvenient. We have seen that sort of thing in the Obama administration before with regard to immigration and national security issues, among others. There is, of course, precedent for presidential requests to Congress for enactment of special waiver power, as in the case of the military coup in Pakistan after 9/11. Given the lack of support for Mr. Morsi in Congress, such legislation may not be too difficult to achieve.
To be sure, Mr. Obama may have some wiggle room even under current law. While Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the budget committee that oversees foreign aid, has declared that “[the] law is clear: U.S. aid is cut off when a democratically elected government is deposed by military coup or decree,” there is an alternative view now emerging.
Some of Mr. Morsi’s opponents and members of Congress are arguing that what occurred in Cairo was not a coup as defined by the statute. They note that the military took action only after demonstrations by millions of Egyptians against Mr. Morsi’s policies indicated the extent of public discontent. “It’s not a coup because the military did not take power,” said Mohamed Tawfik, Egypt’s ambassador to the U.S. “The military did not initiate it. It was a popular uprising. The military stepped in order to avoid violence.”
In any event, we continue to be encouraged by the ongoing indications that President Obama seems to have abandoned his earlier, dangerously sophomoric, approach to the Middle East. This holds the promise of a more realistic U.S. policy for the remainder of Mr. Obama’s second term.