August 20, 2013


Cutting Off Aid Honors American Values and Law : By contravening U.S. law, the Obama administration is sending a dangerous message to Gen. Sisi. (ELLIOTT ABRAMS, 8/20/13, WSJ)

The first mistake the Obama administration made was not instantly suspending aid when the coup occurred in July. The administration's twisted defenses for persisting in its current policy--Who says we have to make an immediate decision to cut off aid? Why is it a coup if it has significant public support?--showed contempt for the rule of law. The White House's refusal to enforce this statute has undercut U.S. influence in Egypt, not enhanced it. Had we stuck to our laws and principles, it would have signaled to Gen. Sisi and the Egyptians that we have a few of both.

Those who oppose a suspension of aid conjure up a parade of horribles. First, they say, we'll lose all influence with the Egyptian military. This is a laughable argument, for it is obvious that we have none. Secretary of State John Kerry, Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel--who alone placed 17 phone calls to Gen. Sisi in the six weeks after the coup--begged Egypt's interim leader not to use deadly force against demonstrators. But that is exactly what he did and continues to do. The generals clearly think we need them more than they need us, so they aren't listening.

The second argument is that if the U.S. cuts off aid, Egypt will abrogate the peace treaty with Israel, stop allowing American ships easy passage through the Suez Canal and abandon efforts to fight terrorism in Sinai. This list wrongly assumes that Egypt does these things for us rather than in its own national interest.

Nowadays, the Egyptian military has a far closer relationship with the Israeli Defense Forces than with the U.S. It values Israeli advice on matters like terrorism and Hamas, a despised Muslim Brotherhood offshoot, more than our own. Egypt needs peace with Israel because war would destroy any chance of economic progress and likely deal the army a humiliating blow. Egypt needs law and order in Sinai to save the tourist industry in Sharm el-Sheik and prevent the area from becoming a base for terrorists that will target Egypt itself, as well as Jordan and Israel.

Finally, those that oppose suspending aid argue that once the Egyptian military is cut off, the U.S. will lose all of its current contacts and any future influence will be forfeited as well. Once again, this is a vast exaggeration. New legislation could allow counterterror assistance and military exchanges to continue, while programs like supplying Egypt with more F-16s--useless to an army engaged in street combat--are delayed. So far, the White House has proposed none.

Being a democrat means accepting your choice won't always win elections, but should still get to govern.

Posted by at August 20, 2013 8:01 PM

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