“You need to explain to me why the U.S. reaction to Morsi’s behavior is so muted,” one Arab official wrote me. “So a Muslim Brotherhood leader becomes president of Egypt. He then swoops in with the most daring usurping of presidential powers since the Pharaohs, enough to make Mubarak look like a minor-league autocrat in training by comparison, and the only response the . . . [Obama administration] can put out is [Nuland’s statement].” This official wondered whether the United States had lost its moral and political bearings in its enthusiasm to find new friends.

The administration’s rejoinder is that this isn’t about America. Egyptians and other Arabs are writing their history now, and they will have to live with the consequences. Moreover, the last thing secular protesters need is an American embrace. That’s surely true, but it’s crazy for Washington to appear to take sides against those who want a liberal, tolerant Egypt and for those who favor sharia. Somehow, that’s where the administration has ended up.

For a lesson in the dangers of falling in love with your client, look at Iraq: U.S. officials, starting with President George W. Bush and Gen. David Petraeus, kept lauding Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, despite warnings from many Iraqis that he was a conspiratorial politician who would end up siding with Iran.