The Lesser of Two Evils in Egypt
As Egypt faces significant turmoil following the ousting of former Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi, Washington is deciding whether or not the US should suspend its nearly $1.5 billion annual aid to Egypt. Many have argued that by continuing aid to Egypt, the US would be supporting a military-led dictatorship which has been killing protestors since Morsi was forced out in early July. Conversely, canceling the aid program would help the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Islamic group which is rumored to have ties to al Qaeda. There are two questions we must ask ourselves: 1) which option is better for the strategic interests of the US and its allies; and 2) which option is better for the moral interests of the Egyptian people. The answer to both of these questions is the Egyptian military, the lesser of two evils, and aid to Egypt should not be suspended.
First, most experts agree that suspending aid would not accomplish much, with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates vowing to replace American aid should Washington halt it. Also, the Egyptians may respond by ending their peace treaty with Israel and taking away their preferential treatment for the US of the Suez Canal. By continuing to provide the Egyptian military with aid, the US is maintaining its influence over the country’s generals. Egypt has long been thought of as the cultural and political leader of the Arab world, and ending their peace with Israel would set a very dangerous example for other Arab states. Since Anwar al-Sadat made peace with Israel in 1978, the Egyptians and Israelis have had a “cold peace” which has been one of the few sources of stability in the region. If this were to change, America’s closest ally would be at a much greater risk. In addition to preserving peace with Israel, the Egyptian military would keep American citizens safer too – unlike the Muslim Brotherhood, the military leadership would assist the US in counterterrorism operations and prevent Egypt from turning into a safe haven for al Qaeda operatives.
Though the Egyptian military is clearly not an ideal option, the Muslim Brotherhood is undoubtedly worse. Suspending aid, and therefore indirectly supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, would be a blow to Israel, make counter-terrorism efforts much more difficult, and make prices go up because of a lack of preferential treatment for the Suez Canal.
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