The escalating protests in Egypt have underscored the extent to which the removal of Hosni Mubarak - historic though it was - was a far cry from instituting a truly democratic government under civilian control. Egypt's military rulers appear to be back-peddling but it's unclear just how far they're willing to go to meet protester demands for full civilian control of the government.
All of this puts Washington in something of a bind. On the one hand, there remains a fear of what a truly democratic Egypt will produce (i.e. the empowerment of the Muslim Brotherhood). On the other, there are concerns that backing the military's attempt to crush democratic reforms will only fuel a dangerous long-term resentment among Egyptians.
The Obama administration hasn't really broken clearly in either direction, but it seems like there are three broad choices: 1. continue to send American tax dollars to Egypt's military, even (or perhaps, especially) if they maintain their grip over Egypt's political and economic institutions - the better to keep the Muslim Brotherhood out; 2. refuse to send American tax dollars to Egypt's military rulers until they release their grip on those institutions; 3. refuse to send American tax dollars to Egypt irrespective of what they do.
Tonight the GOP nominees are holding a debate on U.S. foreign policy and it will be interesting to see what position, if any, they'd endorse. I think you'd get a hardy endorsement of number three from Ron Paul but it's not clear to me how the others would break on the question. (And a shameless in-house plug, we'll be hosting a live blog tonight for the GOP debate with a number of foreign policy analysts and journalists. You can tune in here at 8pm EST.)