Keller @ Large: Egypt – Do We Have A Clue?

BOSTON (CBS) – As the great Yogi Berra would say, it’s deja vu all over again.

Remember way back in 1979, when our embassy employees in Iran were taken hostage? That crisis happened in large part because of faulty US intelligence. We didn’t understand the nature of the turmoil going on in Iran after the fall of the Shah and what might happen when we allowed him to come here for medical treatment.

Our foreign intelligence failed us again in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

And now, as one of our most important allies in the Middle East descends into political chaos, you once again have to wonder – do we really have a solid clue what’s going on over there?

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

Thursday morning, as the word came down that President Mubarak was planning a televised address, no less than the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta, publicly claimed that our information had Mubarak ready to step down, a “high likelihood” that it would happen by last night.


But this is no joke.

Add in the conflicting versions we’ve been getting of the radicalism of the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition group in Egypt, and you have a formula emerging that is alarmingly reminiscent of past disasters.

Another question: why has our official policy seemed to fairly rapidly evolve from caution and urging a gradual solution to something closer to cheerleading for quick regime change?

We seem to now be advocating a transition of power more rapid than the one we undergo after an election – and without benefit of a new election in Egypt.

How does that serve our interests, or those of the Egyptian people?

I have to say, if our country was being ruled by autocrats like Mubarak, I’d be siding with the protestors too, he’s no day at the beach, and his time seems long past.

But foreign policy informed by faulty intelligence and impulse seems like a formula for repeating some of our worst blunders of the past.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

More from Jon Keller
  • FireGuyFrank

    Jon, we Americans proceed from a false assumption that everyone in the world defines democracy the same way we do. (And let’s all remember, we have a Republic!) Add in that there are extremist Muslims trying to convert the world to Islam, and we Americans are clueless.

    President Obama thought his grand apology tour, which he started in Egypt, was going to change the world. Oops. Sorry, Mr. President. We cannot escape the facts that folks get tired of weak economies everywhere. How they change the leadership depends on their nation. Some things will not change — at least not in our lifetime.

  • CEO

    I think it’s clear that, when it comes to Muslim nations, our intelligence network hasn’t been able to effectively penetrate them as they are basically closed societies. This makes us extremely vulnerable and we should take none of the public rhetoric that comes out these nations at face value.

    In this situation with Egypt, the Obama Administration started commenting way too early without having a real grasp of what was going on. As a result, it hurt this country’s credibility once again. Not to mention raising doubt amongst our other allies about just how fast we might throw them under the bus as well. A really bad scene and poor execution.

  • mikey

    What’s coming? Iran II perhaps? Meanwhile Mubarak has supposedly stashed away billions in a foreign bank account, which I don’t doubt, much of it probably our money. Faced with a problem this country throws money at it – what a strategy!

  • taxedout

    Time for the Pres to go kiss another….Well you know!!!

  • jaygee

    As the old saying goes, oppressed people are usually very oppressive when first liberated. They know the best about two positions. Somebody’s foot on their neck or their foot on somebody else’s neck. I seriously doubt that the unbridled optimism will last very long and the lives of the poor won’t change very much, if at all.

  • emom

    I feel this country would be faced with much oppression,,,, OH WAIT WE ALL HAVE,,,,, But to have an entire country liberated is great BUT!!!!!! at what cost to the USA,,, what are we to expect in the near future…. Not going to like what could hapen in the long run,, Dont get me wrong,, Glad they might have some freedom,,, but at what cost to the world…..

  • DStein

    Hey, ever since Obama appointed James “Where am I?” Clapper as Director of National Intelligence, it’s no surprise the U.S. didn’t have a clue what was going on in Egypt. It seems everytime Clapper does a media interview it becomes apparent the rest of us know more about what’s going on in the world than he does. Scary. Scary like Janet Napolitano scary. She’s as clueless as Clapper and Obama combined.

  • taxedout

    Hey We don’t even know what’s going on here, never mind Egypt!!!! We give them a Billion a year, while people her are freezing in thier homes if they have one!!!! We could take a page from these people and scare the you know what out of the Idiots in power!!!!

  • taxedout

    I’m sure Lara Logan has a clue….Must have been those Extreemsts, right Whoopi???

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