Congressman (and former high school history teacher) Allen West gave his Facebook followers a "comparative history lesson for America" yesterday in which he blamed Jimmy Carter for "the resurgence of radical Islamic totalitarianism" and then compared it to Obama's calls for then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek to step down, a move that he said "led to a Muslim Brotherhood dominated Egyptian parliament, Coptic Christian persecution, violence and Islamist control, and  Americans now detained with under threat of imprisonment."
We were curious if Obama really was to blame for all this, so we called Robert Danin, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a D.C.-based foreign relations think tank. Danin served, among a long list of other posts, under President George W. Bush as deputy assistant secretary of state in charge of Egyptian affairs.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Danin said West's interpretation was a little off.
"First of all, the United States was not in a position to prevent what happened to Mubarek," Danin said. "Had the U.S. supported Mubarek, I don't think it would have impacted developments on the ground significantly."
While West makes it sound like Mubarek's fall is the worst thing ever to happen to Egypt, Danin said "the jury is still out" on whether it actually will be.
"To the extent that this was a repressive regime that refused to reform, unfortunately I think the people in Egypt felt no choice but to force him out," he said. "This came after years of the United States asking him to take a more reformist path... I don't think that we had control over this."
Well, is the situation in Egypt as bad as West makes it sound?
"Yeah, in a shorthand fashion," Danin said. "The question is whether there is causality there. The cork was taken out of the bottle..., but the question is whether the cork could have remained in the bottle. The pressure built up so immensely."
He also said that while the Muslim Brotherhood has gained significant power in Mubarek's absence, that isn't Obama's fault either.
"I'd say Mubarek has a lot of responsibility in that outcome, in that he refused to let other liberal institutions flourish as a counterweight," Danin said. "It's the actions he took over many years that led to the Muslim Brotherhood taking power."
And what about the comparison West made? Did Carter really just "allow" the shah of Iran to be deposed? Is Carter really the source of radical Islam's "resurgence"?
Danin said it was much, much more complicated than that, but "I think you're very right to question the causality."
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