Sunday, March 3, 2013

How not to think about Egypt-U.S. relations

According to a WaPo piece this a.m., some voices are being raised in Congress to cut off U.S. military aid to Egypt. One Democratic congressman is quoted as saying that he would hate to see U.S.-supplied planes and tanks being used by Egypt against Israel.

One must wonder what alternative universe this individual is inhabiting. Egypt and Israel have a peace treaty. One of the quickest ways to undermine that treaty would be for the U.S. to cut off its military aid to Egypt while not simultaneously making similar cuts in aid to Israel (the latter, of course, being politically unthinkable given the alignment of opinion in Congress).

That's not to say that some adjustments, as opposed to cuts, in aid to Egypt shouldn't be considered. Toward the end of the article McCain is quoted as saying the U.S. should be supplying fewer planes and tanks to Egypt and more aid tailored to dealing with militant groups active in the Sinai. Now that may make sense, inasmuch as one isn't going to send tanks into the desert on counterterrorist missions. 

Meanwhile the piece also indicates that U.S. development aid to Egypt has been mostly on hold since the revolution. Now here's smart policy for you: continue sending useless tanks that will simply collect dust and rust while not sending economic aid to an important country whose economy is in free-fall, admittedly partly for reasons of Morsi's own making (he's unwilling to slash subsidies to get the IMF loan that hasn't been closed on yet).

It would be nice if the Democratic congressman mentioned above spent less time entertaining idiotic fantasies of another Egypt-Israel war and more time thinking about how the U.S. can best help promote pluralist democracy and economic recovery in Egypt.

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