Friday, February 4, 2011

And We Wonder Why the Average Egyptian Doesn't Really Care For Us

This article in The New Republic on US aid to Egypt shows what our real goals were in Egypt:
U.S. military aid to Egypt—which averages $1.3 billion annually, and which this week allowed Egyptian police and paramilitaries to bombard protesters with volley after volley of tear gas made by Combined Systems International of Jamestown, Pennsylvania—may be grotesque in the objective sense because Washington has provided the Egyptian armed forces with such weapons platforms and systems as F-16 fighter aircraft, Abrams Main Battle Tanks, Apache attack helicopters, anti-aircraft missile batteries, and much else, precisely so these weapons will not be used against Israel. A March, 2009, cable from the US Embassy in Cairo that was made public by Wikileaks summed up both Washington’s rationale for the aid and President Mubarak’s expectations about it with admirable clarity. It is worth quoting in some detail:

"President Mubarak and military leaders view our military assistance program as the cornerstone of our mil-mil relationship and consider the USD 1.3 billion in annual FMF as “untouchable compensation” for making and maintaining peace with Israel. The tangible benefits to our mil-mil relationship are clear: Egypt remains at peace with Israel, and the U.S. military enjoys priority access to the Suez Canal and Egyptian airspace. We believe, however, that our relationship can accomplish much more. Over the last year, we have engaged MOD leaders on developing shared strategic objectives to address current and emerging threats, including border security, counter terrorism, civil defense, and peacekeeping. Our efforts thus far have met with limited success."

Whatever one thinks of these “tangible benefits,” and the wisdom of continuing an aid policy with a strategic but with no strictly military rationale, at least there were some, as Israeli discomfiture with the prospect of the end of the Mubarak regime has amply demonstrated. And at least Washington has been coherent. At a joint press conference Secretary of Defense Robert Gates held with President Mubarak in Cairo on May 5, 2009, after opining that “multiple American presidents and administrations have benefited from [Mubarak’s] wise counsel,” the secretary went on to say that, while the Obama administration was supportive of human rights, as “the United States always is,” the position of the administration was that “the foreign military financing that’s in the budget should be without conditions.” Of course, a more honest answer would have been that, while there were indeed no specific conditions, there was, as the Wikileaks document showed, a quid pro quo understood by both sides.

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