Home/Daniel Larison/The U.S. Shouldn’t Be “More Engaged” with Leaders of a Military Coup

The U.S. Shouldn’t Be “More Engaged” with Leaders of a Military Coup

David Ignatius thinks the U.S. should ignore the requirement to suspend aid to Egypt after the coup:

The idea that America should cut off assistance to Egypt in protest of the coup, as advanced by Sen. John McCain and others, makes little sense except as a piece of pro-democracy rhetoric. This is a time for America to be more engaged, rather than less so, with Egypt and its rulers (even generals). Better to continue aid, and insist that it be conditioned on the military scheduling early elections.

One thing that has been consistent in U.S. policy towards Egypt before and since the fall of Mubarak is that there is virtually nothing that the military or civilian leadership of the country can do that will ever result in the suspension of U.S. aid. In theory, this aid provides Washington with influence and leverage, or so everyone keeps saying, but when it comes time to exercise that influence and leverage by suspending it there is always an argument for why it would be the wrong thing to do right now. Conditioning the aid on the scheduling of early elections just defers the decision until later, when it will no doubt be deferred again. Aid that will never be withdrawn doesn’t provide much leverage when there is no fear that it could be lost. If the U.S. isn’t willing to suspend aid to a foreign military after it carries out what everyone can recognize as a coup against a properly elected government, it won’t be willing to suspend it later when the coup leaders fail to hold early elections or for any other reason. I think everyone debating this in the U.S. knows perfectly well that this is so. Perhaps it is time to acknowledge that all this talk of U.S. leverage is just a pretense that the U.S. has the ability to influence events in Egypt when it no longer does.

It’s all very well to say that the U.S. should be “more engaged,” but how can greater U.S. engagement in Egypt at the present time be seen as anything other than an endorsement of the coup and whatever crimes are carried out by its leaders? This really has very little to do with “pro-democracy rhetoric” and everything to do with some basic respect for what our own law requires. I also fail to see how any U.S. interests are secured or advanced by becoming “more engaged” with the leaders of a foreign military coup.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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