This week’s cuts to military aid to Egypt have had negative consequences for U.S.–Egypt relations.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said Wednesday that the country is “in a delicate state reflecting the turmoil in the relationship and anyone who says otherwise is not speaking honestly.” Some experts worry that “the army will turn to a rival country for military aid,” such as Russia. This would be a dangerous double blow to American leadership and national security.
The reasoning behind the decision to cut aid is that the current military regime is not moving fast enough to stage elections to replace deposed President Mohamed Morsi. But there are lessons to be learned from the last round of elections—namely, that elections do not necessarily bring on liberal democracy, a primary goal of U.S. aid and diplomacy.
Heritage distinguished fellow Kim Holmes points out in The National Interest that, as was seen with Morsi, popular elections don’t necessarily lead to more freedom—they can actually “produce even more instability and violence.”
In addition to the fear that elections could lead to another Islamist quasi-dictator in Egypt, there is the reality that cutting aid is undermining America’s relations with Egypt, one of the most important relationships the U.S. has in an increasingly hostile region. It is also undermining America’s reputation with ordinary Egyptians. Experts at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy claim that “the U.S. is now viewed across the country as an unreliable or even hostile interloper.”
Furthermore, the Egyptian military is the only institution promoting anything close to liberty and democracy in Egypt today. According to Heritage senior fellow James Phillips, there is broad support for the military among the Egyptian people, many of whom believe that “Egypt was harmed by Washington’s support” for Morsi.
President Obama should reconsider his cuts to aid. The Egyptian military is trying to ensure that a truly representative democracy and security evolve in Egypt. It doesn’t help that the U.S. is pulling the rug out from under it.