2013 August 17 Saturday
US Government Has No Real Choice On Egypt

Title for a Daniel Larison piece in The Guardian: Unless Obama cuts aid to Egypt, he'll be seen as endorsing coup and crackdown: The US has already taken sides in Egypt – and support for the military will be taken as moral support for its bloodshed.

Seeing this headline I immediately hit Ctrl-F and typed Israel. The first reference to Israel was in the comments. Disappointing. Only one of the commenters (who had too big of an ax to grind to explain clearly) got close to explaining the point of US aid to Egypt: bribe the Egyptian deep state to stay at peace with Israel. This policy goal overrides many (all?) other considerations.

What I want to know: how accurate are the calculations of the Egyptian military on how to handle the Egyptian people?

The ferocity of the attacks by security forces on Islamist protesters in Cairo this week appears to have been a deliberate calculation of the military-appointed government to provoke violence from the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies, a number of Arab and Western historians of Middle East politics said Friday.

More on the Egyptian military's desire for a fight.

Did the Egyptian military take a big risk? How assured are they of prevailing? Is this going to work? How big and motivated are the factions for and against military rule? Do you see clear indicators of which side will win? NY Times coverage doesn't provide enough clues. Found a good media source on the balance of power in Egypt? For example, will Egyptian soldiers stay loyal to the state? An NY Times report argues that civil strife is intensifying. But reports of civilians siding with the military suggest it is more than just the military and police against the Muslim Brotherhood. If the military has as many civilians on its side as the Muslim Brotherhood has then the Muslim Brotherhood will lose.

The Egyptian government thinks the foreign media are under-reporting attacks on churches and other indications of Islamist brutality.

“I admit we feel deep bitterness for the biased coverage of media and news agencies, and the question here is where are the stories of the churches that have been burned?” said Mr. Hegazi. “Where are the reports of the police officers and soldiers who were brutally killed and mutilated?”

Gulf monarchies pledged $12 billion in aid for Egypt as soon as the military took over. That swamps US $1.5 billion aid.

The interesting twist here: The US wants the Egyptian military to prevail for the sake of Israel. The Saudi royals want the Egyptian military to prevail because they do not want spreading Islamist political extremism to threaten their hold on power.

So here's my question: Have the events in Egypt and other "Arab Spring" countries shifted thinking of American foreign policy elite thinkers away from promoting democracy in the Middle East. Does the US now see more shared interest with Saudi Arabia and the Egyptian military? Time to put the democracy genie back in the bottle?

Will the Egyptian military eventually allow elections on training wheels where candidates are vetted as not being too Islamist? Turkey's military played this game for decades, overthrowing governments that crossed the line on religiosity. Is this Egypt's future? Also, does the Egyptian military recruit officers and enlisted men only from less religious families? How do they assure loyalty to the military ahead of loyalty to the mosque?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2013 August 17 11:21 AM 

AMac said at August 17, 2013 12:10 PM:

The Algerian civil war is probably the most useful precedent to contemplate. Larison doesn't mention it. However, one of the linked NYT pieces does.

destructure said at August 18, 2013 3:42 AM:

I agree with the Egyptian military that the MSM was biased in favor of Morsi. The MSM cheered when Mubarak was overthrown and had no problem with the MB getting elected. The military is right that the MSM ignored the MB's atrocities.

I think Saudi Arabia and the US view the coup as "pushing the reset" on the Arab Spring. Democracy failed because Democracy requires a thriving free market economy with a large middle class. I don't think Egypt has enough smart people for a large middle class. So you'd have a tiny elite, small middle class and huge underclass. The large underclass would be radicalized. Which would only lead to a radical Islamist dictatorship. That's what was happening. The only way to stop a radical Islamist dictatorship is with a moderate, secular dictatorship backed by the military. That's what they had under Mubarak and that's what they need now.

I've heard a lot of crap about the MB being democratically elected. Yeah, well, so were the nazis. The MB may have been elected but they made it perfectly clear where they were headed. Islamists had long since chased out the Jews and were going after the Copts. Morsi's government and police had encouraged it and already given up any claims of legitimacy. Eventually, they would have gone after Israel. Not to mention they would have opposed US interests the same way Iran does.

Black Death said at August 18, 2013 10:59 AM:

"Democracy" in the Middle East is a joke and a fraud. Remember the MSM enthusiasm for the blessed "Arab Spring" when Mubarak got kicked out? Reminds me of the burst of joy with which the media greeted the fall of the nasty old Shah of Iran. How's all that looking now? The choice in these lands boils down to a secular dictatorship, military or civilian, or rule by Islamic fundamentalists (who may even be "democratically elected"). There are no other possibilities.

I'm not surprised that the corrupt rulers of the Gulf monarchies are pumping money to the Egyptian generals. These guys must be crapping in their turbans right now. They're terrified of the Iranians as well as the Sunni radicals of the MB sort.

US policy in the region is now in complete and utter ruin, but don't blame Obama and Hillary alone. This idiocy has been building for decades.

Jim said at August 18, 2013 4:21 PM:

Becoming involved in the Middle East was the worst foreign policy mistake in US history. Truman was advised by virtually the entire US foreign policy establishment to stay out of the Arab-Israeli conflict. If only we had listened to people like George Marshall. The cost of our involvement in the Middle East in lives and treasure has been enormous and there is no end in sight.

Skalla said at August 22, 2013 2:40 PM:

One thing consistently left out of the discussion of a stable Egypt:

It's the Suez Canal dagnabit. Egypt has closed it before for political reasons. It just had some record shipment numbers:

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