Violating the Law to Subsidize Egypt’s Coup: Bipartisan Foolishness in Washington

U.S. policy in Egypt is a disaster.  Washington long backed authoritarian rule.  Now military rule has supplanted short-lived democracy.  Washington should disengage and cut off all foreign “aid.”

Instead, the Obama administration has embraced putative dictatorship.  According to Secretary of State John Kerry, “the military did not take over to the best of our judgment so far.”

The administration could have acknowledged that Gen. Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi rules by force and then argued that the coup was justified.  But the case was weak.

President Mohamed Morsi misplayed his hand and the Muslim Brotherhood deserves suspicion.  But the first elected leader in Egypt’s 5000-year history was discrediting himself and political Islam.  Nor could he have become a dictator without the military’s support.

The administration refuses to call the coup a coup to avoid triggering the law which requires cutting off aid.  President Barack Obama’s policy towards Egypt is one of his greatest failures.

Washington backed the dictator Mubarak as Egyptians were rallying against him.  The administration then accepted President Morsi’s rise, unsuccessfully urging him to rule in an inclusive manner.  Several administration officials urged the Egyptian military not to stage a coup.  Subsequently Gen. Sisi ignored American advice not to persecute the Brotherhood.  Yet today virtually every Egyptian blames America. 

Still, leading Republicans have endorsed the Obama policy.  The Senate rejected an amendment from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to cut off America’s $1.55 billion in annual foreign “aid.”

For instance, Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio echoed the clueless Secretary Kerry, warning that if you cut off aid “you lose leverage.”  However, as I ask in my new article on American Spectator online:

Where, one wonders, is the evidence of this vaunted leverage—after nearly $75 billion in “assistance” over the years?  When Presidents Sadat and Mubarak jailed opponents, persecuted Coptic Christians, enriched supporters, and despoiled the economy?  When President Morsi claimed extraordinary power and refused to conciliate his opponents?  When Gen. Sisi staged the coup?  When the general ignored the administration’s advice to govern in an inclusive fashion?  When he embraced the corrupt and authoritarian Mubarak elite?  One unnamed official reluctantly admitted to the New York Times:  “what we say might not be part of their calculus.”

If the Obama administration is willing to torture language and ignore the law to keep shoveling money into Cairo, it is evident that nothing, except presumably war with Israel, would cause Washington to close the spigot.  Since Gen. Sisi and his fellow officers can count on America’s money—as well as a promised $12 billion from Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states—they have no reason to pay the slightest attention to Secretary Kerry.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) worried about the impact on Israel.  However, aid is not why Cairo has kept the peace with Israel for 40 years.  Syria has been at peace with Israel for the same period of time and received no money.  Both states know they would lose a war with Israel, which would be particularly bad news for Egypt’s generals. 

Unfortunately, the U.S. faces inevitable blowback.  Backing military rule risks generating the same sort of long-term harm that came from Washington’s support for the 1953 coup against Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh. 

Washington should avoid being linked to the Brotherhood or the military.  Disengage and let Egyptians decide their own future.