Now We Cut Aid?

Cartoon courtesy of Yaakov “Dry Bones” Kirschen

— by Steve Sheffey

The U.S. had no qualms about providing aid to Egypt during the repressive reign of Hosnai Mubarak. We continued aid to Egypt when the Muslim Brotherhood won a democratic election, and even after it was clear that the Muslim Brotherhood was oppressing its people. Then the Egyptian military took over. And now we cut aid?

Some have argued that the military might have been doing the will of the people by removing the Brotherhood, and there is no question that Egypt’s opposition to Hamas and other radical groups helps the U.S. and Israel.

Jeff Goldberg, who thinks reducing aid to Egypt is a mistake, is concerned that cutbacks in aid to Egypt could upset American allies who share the same adversaries as Egypt (Shia radicalism, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Sunni extremism), relieve pressure on Hamas and thereby hinder the Israel-Palestinian peace process, and re-energize Islamic extremists.

But Goldberg also points out that a cutoff “may be a moral necessity:”

The Egyptian military seems unwilling to use tear gas on demonstrators when the opportunity to shoot opponents in the head presents itself, and it did, in fact, initiate a coup in July against a democratically elected government (albeit one that governed undemocratically and was the target of popular rage).

More after the jump.

We continued aid to Egypt even after it was clear that the Muslim Brotherhood was oppressing its people. Anti-Brotherhood protest in Tahrir Square, Jan. 25.

The Administration is walking a very fine line by continuing some aid, such as counter-terrorism and Sinai security, but cutting certain big-ticket military items. On October 9, a senior Administration official said:

We wanted to be absolutely clear that we weren’t going to do anything that would put at risk our own security or Egypt’s security or some of our common interests. And so continuing with everything related to security in the Sinai, counterterrorism, sustainment of their capabilities there — I don’t think we’ve focused on that enough here, but we are also continuing with spare parts and what they need to continue to do the things that are in our mutual interest and help support the peace treaty with Israel. We didn’t want to do anything to put any of that at risk, and we believe that the bigger ticket items that we are not currently proceeding with don’t do that and our important security interests are thus preserved even while we are sending this important signal.

It appears that the Administration felt it had no choice but to take some symbolic action in response to the military’s harsh measures, while at the same time attempting to preserve the fundamentally important and solid strategic relationship with Egypt.

Remember that Egypt also has an incentive to preserve good relations with the U.S. It is too early to tell if the Administration once again managed to thread the needle (as it did in Syria), or if this is a mistake. We will see how it plays out.

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  1. burrowsx says

    The failure to deliver helicopters to the Egyptian military will not harm the readiness of the Egyptian armed forces. Egypt is not under attack at the moment which would require a helicopter response. On the other hand, Gen. al-Sisi has initiated totalitarian attacks against both civil protests, and the Muslim Brotherhood. Obama has clearly indicated through public statements that the resumption of Egyptian aid is conditional on the restoration of civil order, and that it frowns on the institution of a coup, which such a crackdown would cement.

    Critics like Tawfik Hamid have claimed that there simply is no institutional alternative to a military dictatorship, that the so-called democratic political movements are divided and unable to govern, or to elect enough of a core to create a governing coalition. Yet a return to military clampdown, as in the latter days of the Mubarak regime, would make it impossible for these democratic parties to obtain the experience to develop experience to learn the dealmaking skills they currently lack.

    Yet, we in the United States are losing the skills at dealmaking that allow our own government to work. Our trauma from 9/11 has apparently paralyzed our electorate into electing tinpot leaders, whose eccentric Patton uniforms, and impulsive Monty initiatives, are more important than the coordinated preparations and victories that actually defeated the Axis.

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