If President Obama nominates Amb. Robert Ford to be the next US ambassador to Egypt, American interests in that troubled nation will be extremely well served. To Egyptian citizens who are vocally fretting about American policy toward Egypt: you will have no greater, more articulate, more credible advocate for pluralistic, participatory democracy than Amb. Ford.
I know Robert very well. We served together as senior leaders at US Embassy Baghdad in the most difficult days of strife and mistrust. He was the Political Section chief, I the Political-Military Section chief. Robert’s profound knowledge of Arab character, culture and language accurately guided Iraqi understanding of US policy, and, perhaps more importantly, Washington’s understanding of Iraqi political dynamics. He also helped inform US military understanding of the impacts of US military operations and tactics upon US strategy in Iraq from the perspective of those political dynamics. The effective interaction between Embassy and Multi-National Forces Iraq was essential to successful implementation of US policy.
I cannot speak from direct experience about Robert’s efforts in Syria. But as a two-time alumnus of US Embassy Damascus myself (1979-82, 1988-90), I read with pride Robert’s courageous efforts at danger’s edge to advance vociferously American policy in Syria in 2011. That included his highly publicized visits to sites outside Damascus, scenes of renewed courageous Syrian civil disobedience against the latest horrific reprisals of the Assad regime. Those visits were unquestionably in support of freedom and justice in Syria.
I have just read that some elements in Egypt are already denouncing Robert. That is both sad and ironic if it comes from the mouths of those who cry for true democracy in their country. Only Egyptians who reject participatory democracy, individual liberty and social justice, should fear the nomination and confirmation of Robert Ford to be the next US ambassador to Cairo.