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Aid to Egypt

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When the Obama administration was dealing with Iran, there were accusations the administration was "supporting the Mullahs" against their own people. That was nonsense. But in the case of Egypt it's a material fact that the U.S. is supporting the regime. It's also the case that American support for autocratic regimes in the Middle East is a motivator of Islamic radicalism (it's no coincidence that many of the early al-Qaeda leadership were members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad). In light of the beatings and killings presently occurring in Egypt, it's worth asking whether it might be time (or past time) to revisit whether this aid is actually necessary.

Every year, American taxpayers pony up $1.3 billion for Egypt, on top of nearly $30 billion in other assistance offered since the 1970s. The ostensible rationale for this aid is to keep Egypt at peace with Israel and to keep them on good terms with the U.S. so maritime traffic can transit the Suez without hassle.

The first of these rationales has long stopped making sense. Egypt has kept peace with Israel not out of an abundance of good will but because they understand the folly of trying to defeat them. American aid or no, it's quite difficult to imagine the Egyptian military getting it into their heads that a war with Israel would be a good thing to start in the 21st century. The second rationale is somewhat more persuasive - although Egypt is treaty-bound to keep the Suez Canal open to any ship in both peace time and war, there's no guarantee that a different regime might not seek to change the ground rules.

So the basic question confronting the U.S. is as straightforward as it is vexing: should the U.S. continue to transfer its wealth to the Mubarak regime in light of its treatment of Egyptian protesters?

I don't believe the U.S. should be in the business of micro-managing other country's politics, but it should certainly be in the business of deciding who gets its money. In this case, giving any more of it to Mubarak & Sons seems like a pretty lousy investment.

(AP Photo)