De-leveraged

U.S. aid will keep flowing to Egypt’s brutal military, for some reason.

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According to numbers from the Egyptian government itself, a series of bloody crackdowns by the military against supporters of deposed President Mohammed Morsi have resulted in 525 deaths and more than 3,700 injuries. Other reports claim that far more people have died than are included in the government's count. A Reuters reporter saw 200 uncounted bodies in one mosque alone.

Considering that Egypt is the second-largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, and that most of it goes to the military that is actively killing protesters in the streets, both Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama have been forced to respond.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Middle East.]

Yesterday, Kerry, while condemning the violence, did not announce any shift in U.S. policy. Obama then addressed the situation this morning and, while he did say that all security arrangements with Egypt would be reviewed, he did not make any announcements regarding U.S. aid. In fact, the only slap on the wrist that the Egyptians will receive is the cancellation of a joint military exercise that had been planned. The words "aid" and "coup" did not appear in the president's remarks at all.

That American dollars will, for now, keep flowing to Egypt is at this point just pathetic.  As I discussed here before, U.S. law states that military aid should be cut off to any country whose leadership was put in place via coup, which, regardless of one's feelings toward Morsi, is undeniably what occurred in Egypt. So for that reason alone, aid should have been suspended. That such aid will continue to a military engaging in open slaughter of its citizens makes the situation dramatically worse.

The big lie regarding aid to Egypt is that it gives America "leverage" over events there. That was one of the justifications used by the Senate when it overwhelmingly defeated Sen. Rand Paul's, R-Ky., attempt to cut aid last month. In fact, shortly after the Egyptian military started cracking down on Morsi supporters, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., claimed that U.S. "leverage" would help force a quick transition to democracy.  "The reality now is what do we do and using our assistance as leverage," he said. "We'll have to make sure that the military gets a very clear message that we want to see a transition to a civilian government as quickly as possible."

[See a collection of political cartoons on defense spending.]

So how is that working out? Clearly, the Egyptian military couldn't care less about American condemnation. If the military can kill hundreds, by the government's own count, and still collect billions of dollars, what sort of leverage does the U.S. have? What level of insanity would need to occur for that aid to end?

As the Washington Post noted in a strong editorial yesterday, due to its hesitancy to act decisively and cut funds to Egypt's military, "the Obama administration is complicit in the new and horrifyingly bloody crackdown." The president's remarks today, sadly, did nothing to change that dynamic. In fact, they sent the message that America's leaders believe U.S. interests are, perhaps, best served by a military with no respect for democracy or human rights, and that they will jump through rhetorical and legal hoops to keep those interests served.

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