The Disaster That Is, Was, and Continues to be U.S. Policy Toward Egypt

To say the United States’ foreign policy moves concerning Egypt over the past three decades have been questionable is a colossal understatement.  A better description is that it was awful to begin and is now disastrous after the overthrow of former dictator Mubarak.  The entire situation is a mess and there seems to be little hope of it resolving in the near future.

In the lead-up to Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Egypt this weekend, a Washington Post article touched on many of the points from the American government’s point of view.  To start, a big problem in this relationship is the fact the U.S. supported Mubarak so heavily for so long and the Egyptian people did not take to kindly to that when given the chance to speak.  They don’t like it that so much aid was given to the Egyptian military under Mubarak by the U.S. and now wants America to change tactics.  Which it has rhetorically by doing the following: supporting the Egyptian military and denouncing the democratically elected leader.

“Egypt’s military is our friend,” (Senator James M.) Inhofe said in a statement explaining his bill. “Morsi is our enemy.”

As we all know, one of the best ways to conduct foreign policy is to call the leader of a country you are trying to deal with “our enemy”.  That way the leader then knows they will likely get nowhere in negotiating with you and will look to other countries for policy choices when needed.  This is a textbook example of how to calmly and coolly make friends around the world.  Or is it how to make the situation worse?  Yep, that’s it.

It continues:

“I would hate to see American weapons, sophisticated F-16s, being used against Israel,” (Rep. Juan) Vargas said in an interview. “We’ve seen historically, it could happen again, especially with the radicalization of Egypt.”

Yes, because American weapons falling into the hands of someone using it against Israel (also armed with American weapons) would be bad.  No reason for Egyptians to be upset there.  Unless they read a follow-up article on the Kerry visit:

U.S. officials said Kerry planned to stress the importance of upholding Egypt’s peace agreement with Israel, cracking down on weapons smuggling to extremists in the Gaza Strip.

In other words, it is acceptable and even normal policy for the U.S. to arm one side of the struggle between Israel and Palestine but no one is allowed to arm the other side.  Because who is interested in anything resembling a fair fight in which Israel might have to eventually negotiate on equal terms with Palestinians over statehood.  No hypocrisy here as long as the blatant hypocrisy is completely ignored.

But why would Egyptians be mad at the United States when both military and development aid have continued to flow in the post-Mubarak era.  The U.S. would want to continue to show its caring hand in the country by giving aid in both areas to the newly created democracy…right?  Nope.

Further complicating matters is Washington’s development aid package, which has been frozen for the better part of the post-revolutionary period, largely because Cairo has resisted efforts by the United States to get involved in democratic reform initiatives.

Do we even need to speculate as to why the Egyptians might be a little reluctant to have U.S. intervention in their political process?  Only the most dense would wonder about this position.

It is pretty obvious to the Egyptian people Washington is not helping Egypt to spread democracy or for humanitarian purposes.  Our interest is strategic and we will further that by supporting whoever will help us in that area, regardless of who the are.

Ensuring that Cairo continues to adhere to the terms of the deal, which is explosively unpopular on the Egyptian street, is the Obama administration’s leading incentive to continue the aid. But the United States has other interests, including continued naval access to the Suez Canal, which connects the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean.

Pretty simple.  Get the oil through and everything is okay.  I mean, if we cared about, say, human rights, would we have used Egypt for renditions of terror suspects so they could be tortured by Mubarak’s thugs?  Hard to argue otherwise.

All of these problems are occurring while protests continue in Egypt over the current powers-that-be, Morsi’s administration.  But the good news is we have declared Morsi “our enemy” and the protesters would be on our side for doing that.  And they have declared there happiness towards us by…not showing up for the Kerry visit, as stated in the article.  They also had some words and symbolic actions for us:

“It is clear that nothing has changed in Washington’s shallow way of dealing with Egypt,” he (an opposition leader, Ahmed Maher) said. “There are no deep conversations.”…Before the meeting, several hundred people protested against Kerry’s visit. They burned Kerry’s pictures and chanted that Washington was siding with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Again, this situation is a mess but it is apparent the United States is reaping what it sowed by supporting a ruthless dictator like Mubarak for three decades.  There is no simple solution to remedy this relationship and it will be no surprise if Egyptian angst toward the American government continues for the foreseeable future.

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