Foreign Policy de ja vu: Getting It All Wrong Again in Egypt

BY Glen Tschirgi
1 year, 6 months ago

Here we go again.

Max Boot over at Commentary tells us that we need to support Obama’s plan to send an immediate aid package of $450 million to Morsi in Egypt in order to keep Egypt from slipping into economic collapse which will naturally result in all sorts of terrible, awfable things like more terrorists.  Or something.

I can see why some influential Republicans on Capitol Hill would be reluctant to support the administration’s request to provide $450 million in emergency aid to Egypt. The recent mob attack on our embassy in Cairo, and President Mohammad Morsi’s slowness in condemning the attack, are hardly an advertisement for the new regime. But ask yourself this: Is Egypt likely to produce more or fewer terrorists if its economy collapses?

The question answers itself, and to the extent that an emergency infusion of cash from the U.S. and IMF can tide over the Egyptian economy for a while, it is likely to promote stability and deter the potential radicalization of Egyptian youth. It may even buy time for the new Muslim Brotherhood government to implement some of the free-market reforms it promised during the campaign, if it is so inclined and if it can overcome intense internal resistance from many sectors including the army. Conversely if the Egyptian debt crisis blows up, a la Greece or Iceland, the results are likely to be much more serious than in those countries, given the number of Salafist radicals already present in Egypt and given Egypt’s important strategic position as the largest Arab state.

This is exactly wrong and upside down.  The fact that such an influential commentator like Boot is peddling such nonsense is deeply disturbing.

First, America finally and firmly needs to get off this Train of Fear that our refusal to provide truckloads of cash to failing Middle East states that hate us will result in a new wave of terrorists.   It is simply not true.  The waves of Islamist terrorists are being born and bred literally all the time with the sole aim of attacking the West and its allies.   It has nothing to do with whether the economy is good or bad.  Saudi Arabia has produced, for example, more Islamist thugs per capita than anyone and they are the definition of a social welfare state.   Even if a bad economy in Egypt might result in more Islamists, what is the upshot?  The U.S. winds up spending that money on U.S. military instead and we are better prepared to take them out.

Second, who says we want to “tide over” the Egyptian economy?  Why do we want to help President Morsi out?   He is no friend of the U.S. and is arguably a declared enemy with his rants about revising our Bill of Rights and hints about amending the peace treaty with Israel.  His unconvincing performance with regard to the attack on our embassy in Cairo is further incentive to let him sweat this one out on his own.   Morsi is an Islamist and is bent on radicalizing Egyptian youth regardless of whether we give him money or not.   The U.S. needs to stop this insane co-dependency where we pay money to those who hate and attack us.

Third, it could very well be in U.S. interests to let the Egyptian economy fail.  The clear pattern in authoritarian societies which undergo crises like this is to revert to outright military rule.  Compared to Morsi, the Egyptian military is a better friend to the U.S. and far more likely to serve our interests.   Economic collapse and unrest will convince the majority of Egyptians that Morsi is incompetent and unable to get the international aid to keep society afloat.   In desperate times, people turn to the military as the last resort.    The U.S. should make it quietly known to the Egyptian military that we would be supportive (or at least not condemn) a military coup that restores stability and pro-U.S. government to Egypt.   The only choice in Egypt is the lesser of evils:  the Muslim Brotherhood and the Military autocracy.   Clearly the military favors the U.S.

Bottom line: the U.S. is badly in need of a foreign policy that has real spine.  A dash of Machiavelli and perhaps Sun Tzu.  If that means allowing Egypt’s economy to hit the crapper, so be it.   If it means providing weapons and training to Kurdish rebels in Syria in order to buy influence on the outcome of that civil war, so be it.   If it means, in Afghanistan, isolating Karzai and cutting off aid while cutting deals with regional tribes and warlords in exchange for putting Taliban heads on pikes, so be it.   If it means turning up the unconventional pressure on Iran by sabotaging oil refineries and wells and providing covert aid to insurgents in Iran, so be it.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    Why anyone in any administration still listens to Max Boot is the only enigma here. But I guess they do.

  • TS Alfabet

    Well, actually, Herschel, it’s a whole lot worse than that: Boot is one of Romney’s foreign policy advisors. Let’s hope that he is merely a token advisor, sort of on the level of the guy that Romney buys his lunch sandwiches from.


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This article is filed under the category(s) Egypt,Foreign Policy,Obama Administration and was published October 2nd, 2012 by Glen Tschirgi.

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