John J. Mearsheimer, hardened realist, is one of America’s leading foreign policy experts. But, lately, his realism seems to be giving way to a more conspiratorial view of the world.

Mearsheimer believes the United States is directly responsible for last year’s coup in Egypt.

In an article in the January/February 2014 edition of the National Journal, Mearsheimer states that the Obama administration moved against Morsi and “facilitated his overthrow.”

In taking this step, the United States was helping foster a coup against a democratically elected leader [Morsi] who was not a threat to the United States. – John J. Mearsheimer

It’s not clear from the text what “this step” means, or how that facilitation worked. Mearsheimer doesn’t elaborate.

And you can waste a lot of time searching contemporary news sources, trying to find  mention of tangible U.S. involvement in Morsi’s ouster.

What you will find – aside from the various posts blaming Israel, “New government expected to be more willing partner with Zionists” – are two articles supporting Mearsheimer view.

  1. Al-Jazeera overpromises with the headline “U.S. bankrolled anti-Morsi activists.” The report documents that the U.S. gave money to an Egyptian exile who used social media to cheer on the revolution (from abroad). Also, the report names three Egyptian organizations – who were anti-Morsi during the coup – that received State Department funds as late as 2011. With no evidence of payments after 2011. Which seems like a relevant detail given that the coup took place in July, 2013.
  2. Russia Today (described by the Columbia Journalism Review in 2010 as “the Kremlin’s propaganda outlet”) ran an interview with researcher and writer Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich who speculated that the U.S. had to be in favor of a change in leadership, otherwise the military (dependent on U.S. funding) would have been too scared to act. She prophesied that the Mohammed El-Baradei (whom she connected to the CIA) would likely take power with the blessing of the U.S. Obviously, that didn’t happen.

Foreign Policy magazine, in July 2013, saw fit to address the controversy and was dismissive of the reports of U.S. involvement in Morsi’s ouster, calling them “conspiracy theories,” and noting that the anti-Morsi forces also accused the U.S. of backing Morsi.

Yet Mearsheimer’s claims about the coup are the same as these shaky, conspiratorial reports.

A Mearsheimer defender might suggest this makes no difference. That Mearsheimer’s proposal is still reasonable: the future of Egypt is not a vital U.S. interest and we ought to not waste our time there.

Sure, we could agree or disagree, based on the merits of the case.

Which just makes it all the more curious. Mearsheimer doesn’t need to take the conspiratorial view in order to make his point, or develop his prescription. Yet there he goes, throwing in with the seeming conspiracy theorists and Russian propagandists.

That’s Mearsheimer’s perplexing pattern. Logical analysis and reasonable recommendations requiring serious consideration. Packaged with bizarre interpretations of current events and recent history. And there’s more, this time on Ukraine, in tomorrow’s post.