January 11, 2019
The world is a different place from 2009, when Barack Obama made his first trip to Egypt. When the 44th president stopped at the American University in Cairo, he was just kicking off his apology tour. Ten years later, Secretary Mike Pompeo is on campus, making it quite clear that the only thing America should be apologizing for are the mistakes of the last administration.
"It was here, here in this city," he told the audience, "that another American stood before you. He told you that radical Islamist terrorism does not stem from an ideology. He told you that 9/11 led my country to abandon its ideals, particularly in the Middle East. He told you that the United States and the Muslim world needed, quote, 'a new beginning,' end of quote. The results of these misjudgments have been dire."
Secretary Pompeo ticked off a long list of the Obama administration's mistakes -- including being timid when the world needed strength. "Our eagerness to address only Muslims and not nations ignored the rich diversity of the Middle East and frayed old bonds. It undermined the concept of the nation-state, the building block of international stability. And our desire for peace at any cost led us to strike a deal with Iran, our common enemy."
But, he promised, America has learned from those failures. "We learned when America retreats, chaos often follows; when we neglect our friends, resentment builds; and when we partner with our enemies, they advance. The good news is this. The age of self-inflicted American shame is over, and so are the policies that produced so much needless suffering. Now comes the real 'new beginning.'"
That new beginning, he explained, is helping to lead to a revival of trust, stability, and religious liberty. "New bonds are taking root that were unimaginable until very recently. Who could've believed a few years ago that an Israeli prime minister would visit Muscat? Or that new ties would emerge between Saudi Arabia and Iraq? Or that a Roman Catholic pope would visit this city to meet with Muslim imams and the head of the Coptic faith?" For tens of thousands of men and women of faith, he went on, "Life under ISIS was real hell, a living hell on Earth. Today," he points out, "those areas are liberated, thanks to our coalition's power and might and commitment."
For Pompeo, who's traveled extensively through the Middle East, being in Egypt this month was especially meaningful. "This trip is especially meaningful for me as an evangelical Christian," he told the audience, "coming so soon after the Coptic Church's Christmas celebrations. This is an important time. We're all children of Abraham: Christians, Muslims, Jews."
That recognition, as I know from my trips to Cairo, are not lost on President al-Sisi. The secretary made a point of praising the Egyptian president for his work advancing a fundamental human right barely even acknowledged under Obama. "I also applaud President Sisi's efforts to promote religious freedom, which stands as an example for all leaders and all peoples of the Middle East."
Later, he made a point of telling reporters that when it came to protecting Christians, "America is with them. Christianity is at the heart of the history of this place here in the Middle East. All you have to do is grab a Bible and read the places and the names. Christians have been central to the Middle East. We want to make sure that they continue to have opportunities and freedom and for Christian churches to grow alongside churches of other faiths as well. Our message is simple. We stand for religious freedom every place American diplomacy is at work."
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.