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The Case for Maintaining U.S. Aid to Egypt

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Ken Sofer argues that cutting U.S. aid to Egypt now would be too harsh:

While Egypt’s progress under President Muhammad Morsi towards an open, democratic state has been frustrating and often ineptly managed, the United States needs to remain engaged in efforts to influence the political and economic transition in Egypt, as well as bolster security in one of our most important allies. Both actions will require continued support for a full range of U.S. policy tools — including the annual security and economic assistance the U.S. has delivered since 1979 — and a more robust diplomatic engagement with the multiple centers of power that have emerged in Egypt during the past two years.

U.S. assistance and support for Egypt must be reformed in the long run to reflect new realities, but ending aid to Egypt is a blunt tool that should be reserved for red lines in the relationship, such as a coup d’état, a sharp authoritarian turn, or Egypt reneging on its treaty obligations with Israel. As incoming Secretary of State John Kerry recently stressed, now is not the time to rashly cut off support to Egypt. Clearly, Egypt’s people and leaders will determine its trajectory, but the United States can play a positive role in shaping outcomes.

Can the U.S. really play a positive role? Presumably Sofer means that we can continue to identify and work with liberal factions inside Egypt to bolster their capacity to peacefully organize while exerting pressure on the Brotherhood to adhere to the peace treaty with Israel and govern according to Egypt's constitution. None of these things are necessarily bad ideas, but are they sufficient? And if they fail, what will the U.S. have gained? Having meddled in Egypt's political transition and failed to secure our preferred outcome, we will simply have made more enemies, wasted billions of dollars and provided significant weaponry to a hostile force.

Events across the entire are very fluid right now. I think the notion that Washington can harness these turbulent forces to "shape outcomes" to its liking is, at best, optimistic.

(AP Photo)