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Friday Puzzler: Obama’s Surprising Silence on Morsi’s Grab For Power

By Barbara F. Walter

Secretary Clinton and President Morsi. State Department photo, via Flickr.

Secretary Clinton and President Morsi. State Department photo, via Flickr.

One of the puzzles surrounding Egyptian President Morsi’s very undemocratic move to expand his authority in November was the White House’s (non)response — despite massive protests in Tahrir Square, President Obama said nothing. In fact, since November, the White House’s stance toward Morsi’s grab for power has been quiet acquiescence. Obama has not censured Morsi, not threatened to cut off US aid if Morsi fails to reform, and not demanded that Morsi’s government become more democratic. Instead, the White House appears to have embraced Morsi even more. It’s almost as if Obama doesn’t mind that Egypt’s government is about to be headed by yet another authoritarian leader.

Today’s puzzler is this: Why has Obama remained so silent about recent events in Egypt?

Answer to last week’s puzzler:

Why do weak, poor states tend to be the target of civil wars, while rich, strong states tend to be the target of terrorism?

Thanks to all for your great answers. I think Eric Mosinger nicely sums up what J Wells, Boaz Atzili, and most of our commenters hit on. It’s likely the case that almost all countries are the target of terrorism, rich and poor alike. The reason that it appears as if rich, strong states are disproportionately targeted is because these states have so few civil wars. So then the question is: why do rich, strong states experience so few civil wars? Here too our readers had good answers. It’s probably a mixture of demand and supply (or as we say in the civil war literature, grievance and opportunity). Citizens in rich countries have fewer grievances against the state and, therefore, fewer motives to rebel. Citizens of rich, strong states are also facing a much more formidable opponent who will be costly and difficult to defeat. Thus, the opportunity costs of rebelling will be much higher.

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