Early on, Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood cohorts made all the right noises. In April 2012, as Egypt was preparing for its first elections since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, leading Muslim Brotherhood figures -- including the Islamist political group's chief strategist, Khairat el-Shater -- held convivial conversations with a visiting delegation of U.S. lawmakers. As one member of that congressional group reported to me then: "They all go out of their way to say what we want to hear. They are going to fully protect women's rights, minority rights, the constitutional assembly. They all made great pains to emphasize, without being asked--Shater included--that they will respect all international agreements."
Above all, Shater, a successful businessman (and at the time Morsi's superior), and the other Muslim Brotherhood leaders indicated that they wanted to make Egypt prosperous, and to accomplish this they would have to compromise their dreams of immediately installing a narrow form of sharia, or religious rule, as the law of the land.
When he was elected president, Morsi met those promises part of the way, especially by not breaching the Egypt-Israel peace treaty (although the Brotherhood does not officially recognize Israel). Morsi even enjoyed a brief interlude of international acclaim when he brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in 2012. But the new Egyptian president seemed to think that he could pretty much have his way domestically, forcing through an unpopular sharia-inspired constitution, appointing fellow Muslim Brothers to key ministries, sacking generals and above all failing to understand the needs of a modern economy. And, unfortunately, the Obama administration may have encouraged that view, with what amounted to a mostly hands-off policy toward Egypt's internal politics, at least until recently.