U.S. must restructure aid to Egypt, by Stephen McInerney and Cole Bockenfeld
POMED Executive Director Stephen McInerney and Advocacy Director Cole Bockenfeld explain why updating Egypt’s assistance package will provide greater flexibility to adapt to unexpected political developments there, send a strong signal about U.S. priorities, and begin to restore American credibility.
The United States’ recent decision to suspend military aid to Egypt has drawn criticism. It has reinforced the suspicions of many Egyptians that U.S. policy is hypocritical and unprincipled. In Washington, the move has been attacked as unlikely to affect the actions of Egypt’s military, instead reducing U.S. influence and leverage in Egypt. If this decision turns out to be a halfhearted measure before returning to business as usual in a few months, then those criticisms will have been justified. On the other hand, if the current suspension is instead the first step toward overhauling a badly outdated and damaged relationship, it could be pivotal in restoring the U.S. position in Egypt and in the region more broadly.
Egypt’s assistance package, in both structure and content, is simply a relic from the past – an outdated construct that served U.S. and Egyptian interests in 1979 , but today is almost entirely divorced from reality. In many respects, the same could be said of the broader bilateral relationship. While Egypt has gone from the rule of Mubarak to military rule to Morsi and back to the military, the U.S. government has failed to adapt, clinging to the old policy of backing the narrow set of actors ruling Egypt at the moment while seeking to influence events only through polite entreaties.
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