Members of the Egyptian Republican Guard stand in line at a barricade blocking protesters supporting deposed president Mohamed Mursi. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)
Of course the United States ought to cut off military aid to Egypt. (For that matter, it ought to drastically cut down on military aid to all countries across the board.) But with the Obama administration flailing in confusion about how to respond to the military coup that ousted the odious Muslim Brotherhood in July, it’s important to remember two things: first, American influence in Egypt, in the Middle East and around the world is declining fast, as I noted yesterday. And second, whether or not the United States aids Egypt militarily will have very little bearing, if any, on Egypt’s future course.
In what was intended to be an on-one-hand, on-the-other hand decision yesterday, the US administration cut some aid to Egypt’s military and let other aid flow. The United States will “withhold the delivery of several big-ticket items, including Apache attack helicopters, Harpoon missiles, M1-A1 tank parts and F-16 warplanes, as well as $260 million for the general Egyptian budget,” reports The New York Times. But other aid, including support for counterterrorism and border control, will continue.
In a long, twisted-and-turning background briefing yesterday, five—count ’em! five!—administration officials tried to explain and justify the split decision. Said one official, explaining what was supposedly an effort to send a message to Egypt that the United States is very unhappy:
We also will continue assistance that advances our vital security objectives like countering terrorism, countering proliferation, and ensuring security in the Sinai. We will also continue support like military training and education, and will continue spare parts, replacement parts, and related services for the military equipment that we provide.
Take that, Egypt! That same official made it clear that Egypt can get it all back, even what’s suspended, if it signals “progress on the democratic transition.” Another official explained that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel had a “friendly” conversation with Egypt’s military boss—the twentieth such conversation they’ve had in the past several months—during which, with Benghazi on his mind, Hagel “discussed the importance of continuing to secure US embassies and facilities in Egypt, and providing for the security of Americans in Egypt.” In other words, it’s all about us. Hagel, said the official, told General Al-Sisi that the United States wants Egypt to know that continuing military training of Egyptian officers is “really a symbol of our long-term relationship with Egypt.”