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Ins and Outs in the MIddle East

Rabaa Square before and after military assault.

Rabaa Square before and after military assault.

There are always a couple of Republicans ready to help the President make difficult decisions. Right now the pair is Lindsey Graham and John McCain. Yes, that’s the same Senate pair who urged Obama to intervene in Syria, decrying the President’s “lack of leadership” in that conflict. Thus far no American men and women have died in combat over there,  due to our not being engaged in that utterly confused, horrific sectarian war. President Obama is showing leadership. He’s just not leading where McCain and Graham want to go.

Now Senators McCain and Graham are urging the President to “suspend U.S. assistance to Egypt and make clear to the current leadership of the country what steps we believe are necessary to halt Egypt’s descent into civil conflict and ultimately to restore our assistance relationship, which has historically served U.S. national security interests.” The statement continues, “The interim civilian government and security forces — backed up, unfortunately, by the military — are taking Egypt down a dark path, one that the United States cannot and should not travel with them.”

The Obama administration has repeatedly made it’s objections quite clear to the generals in Egypt and the President has already held back a shipment of aircraft and has most recently canceled a joint military exercise with Egypt. The generals  see the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat to their very existence and — no surprise — they haven’t changed course to satisfy the U.S.

As the Senators point out, “our assistance relationship” with Egypt “has historically served U.S. national security interests.” That assistance began when, under the guidance of President Carter, Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty and — again, no surprise — Israel urgently wants that aid to continue.   We’re giving 1.2 billion in assistance; other states in the Arabian Gulf area are giving a total of ten times as much. No one thinks that our cutting off aid will cause Egypt to change it’s current use of force to suppress the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egypt’s military appears to have massacred civilians.  On the other hand, the Brotherhood appeared to be subverting a fragile democratic Egypt to a radical Islamic caliphate. The U. S. isn’t in charge of events and apparently can’t even influence them much, but if we cut off aid to Egypt we’ll have played our last card and we’ll no longer be in the game at all.  It’s easy for Senators McCain and Graham to call for pious action, especially if the goal is to demonstrate our nation’s purity.  But Egypt presents us with a confused, ugly mess when inaction and watchfulness is best.  We’re free to act later.

More Notes


Tim Carmody, in his excellent piece, "How Haiti Became Poor", notes that President Trump's racist policies and vulgar language have sullied the word "shithole" which used to be one of the all-time great swear words. He's right. It's another terrible power this careless President wields.