US Military Aid to Egypt Dissected (Part I)

The Obama administration announced one year ago the suspension of military assistance to Egypt in the most aggressive leveraging of US aid to date for the sake of promoting a democratic transition. Sadly, this pressure has had no effect on the political trajectory in Egypt. Amy Hawthorne, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center, explores the reasons behind the apparent lack of US influence on Egypt’s decision makers in her recent ariticle on EgyptSource, “What’s Happening with Suspended Military Aid for Egypt?” 

Hawthorne examines how restrictions enacted by Congress has shifted the bargain with Egypt from a focus on peace with Israel to one that added progress on democracy–much to the dismay of Egypt’s authorities whose aggressive policies aimed to close and control the political space for the sake of stability. She argues, however, that President Obama and Congress did not adequately consider different approaches to the partial suspension of military funding and equipment necessary to shift Egypt’s calculus toward a democratic path. Mixed messages and conflicting priorities resulted in a soft approach that was ineffectual.

Despite the release of Apache helicopters that had been withheld, other parts of the aid suspension remain in effect and other policy options could yet be used as leverage. But hardened to external influence and distrustful of particpatory politics, Egypt’s leaders will not likely relent to US concerns over human rights and democracy. In fact, many in the US government find Egypt’s new authoritarian order preferable to the chaos elsewhere in its immediate neighborhood. The question unasked, however, is whether Egypt’s policies will promote or prevent the extremism the United States hopes to counter.

pdfRead the full article here (PDF)