Nothing New on the Egyptian Front?

Four months after the military takeover in Egypt, the country’s economy is still a train wreck. With growth well below government forecasts, the budget deficit in 2013/2014 may get to 15 percent of GDP, bringing Egypt into truly dangerous territory, unless the inflow of aid from the Gulf countries continues indefinitely. And instead of reforms, there are discussions of a new stimulus plan, worth $3.6 billion.

Nor are there many reasons for optimism in the political arena. Mohamed Morsi appeared in court on Monday, charged with inciting violence and murder. If convicted, he can face the death penalty. Unsurprisingly, the trial, alongside with the ongoing crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, has fostered further violent protests in Cairo.

However, if instead of following the news, one listened to U.S. officials, one could not avoid the impression that everything is going swimmingly. Today’s Washington Post has a brilliant editorial describing the state of denial in the administration:

Not surprisingly, a Freedom House report released Monday concludes that “there has been virtually no substantive progress toward democracy … since the July 3 coup,” despite the military regime’s supposed “road map.” But that’s not how Secretary of State John F. Kerry sees it. “The road map is being carried out to the best of our perception,” he pronounced during a quick trip to Cairo on Sunday. A liberal constitution and elections? “All of that is, in fact, moving down the road map in the direction that everybody has been hoping for.”

A large part of the Egyptian problem is that the U.S. government is convinced that continued support to Egypt’s generals serves American interests in the region and will contribute to political and economic stability in the country—which is why the administration is keen, to use Mr. Kerry’s words, to “restore the full measure of the relationship that existed previously.”

The idea that U.S. support for the military—however inept and power-hungry it may be—serves American interests is misguided. The only thing that the unscrupulous political and financial commitment to the autocratic elite in Egypt achieves is that it harms the Egyptian people, fuels anti-American sentiments in the region, and erodes any moral high ground the United States might have once occupied.