President Barack Obama, we know, believes in “engagement.” He believes that maintaining ties even with the most hateful regimes holds out the possibility of progress. In his Nobel Peace Prize speech he mocked moralists — implicitly including his predecessor, George W. Bush — who preferred “the satisfying purity of indignation” to the hard and very impure work of diplomacy. And that, I imagine, is why Obama has reacted so cautiously to the shocking massacres in Egypt, canceling planned military exercises but leaving U.S. military aid intact.
I think this is a serious mistake. But the calculus that may have lead [sic] Obama to his decision is one that I would have admired in a different context. It’s a calculus that needs to be reckoned with. I’ll try to do that here.