I wouldn’t quite call President Morsi’s ousting and Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s military takeover in Egypt the silver lining of a burning Middle East, but there’s no reason President Obama should have such a long face about the news.
The president has canceled for the second time since 2011 a joint military exercise in Sinai between Egypt and the US, telling Sisi that “traditional cooperation cannot continue.” To be fair, what troubles the president most is Sisi’s military assault on pro-Morsi protestors. Understandable as that may be, especially with an Egyptian death toll nearing 1,000, the frustration is still misplaced. It isn’t the military burning churches and playing the game of amateur terrorist — that’s the Muslim Brotherhood, the supporters of Morsi.
Remind me what we’re all supposed to miss about Morsi. Was it his stalwart humanitarianism or his endearing nickname for our only Middle East ally, Israel: apes and pigs?
With the US not showing any determinable interest in a solid partnership with Egypt (and the White House just narrowly deciding not to cut off foreign aid to Egypt), Russian President Vladimir Putin has begun talks with Egypt to have their own joint military exercise.
This is the part where jealousy should motivate us to restart a friendly relationship with Sisi. The military takeover isn’t permanent (only the first step in instituting — hopefully — some form of democratic government), and it presents a good opportunity to make sure that the Muslim Brotherhood remains weak and out of power, unable to offer any real support to its cousin Hamas in Gaza.
The military regime might not be the warmest friend to democracy and liberalism, but the alternative is a group that could facilitate a transfer of arms to Gaza, endangering the US and our friends in Israel. We don’t need someone who aligns perfectly with our beliefs, just someone who doesn’t align at all with Hamas. We should take it.
The question over foreign aid isn’t whether or not to give it, but what to do with it. The US won’t stop aid, because we know that would be an idiotic mistake. Without it Egypt would fall into absolute dismay. Who needs a second Syria? Once Sisi’s military has held out for as long as it could, the Muslim Brotherhood would have little opposition reclaiming its cultural roots in Egypt and implementing its desired Islamist state.
Instead, US aid should be contingent upon Sisi agreeing to set up authentic elections, exacting more humane treatment of civilians, protecting religious minorities under attack, and resisting the Brotherhood’s reentry into Egyptian politics.
Along with these strategic interests, we should also be offering humanitarian aid and influence over IMF loans for Egypt. Children are extremely malnourished in many parts of the country. We should be building favorability with the Egyptian people by shipping food and medical aid. Wheat flour with “Gift of the USA” in Arabic written on it was the idea of the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens, and it is a great idea. We know who the good guys are and we know moral wrongs when we see them. The US shouldn’t squander this opportunity to act as a credible arbiter in the largest Arab state in the Middle East.
When Hosni Mubarak was ousted, Hamas benefited. Their friends the Muslim Brotherhood entered parliament and showed their true colors. Their pick for president’s idea of a good time was to have a society of “walking [Qur’ans]” and he now believes he has documents that could send President Obama to prison.
We’re dealing with actual psychos.
Our dealings with Egypt won’t create a second Israel in the Middle East, but here we have the choices of doing nothing (effectively letting Egypt burn), siding with fanatical goons, or leveraging with someone who offers Egypt a pretty good chance at eventually returning to a pre-Morsi state.
I think the choice is clear.