The Obama administration is unwisely raising the specter of further injecting the U.S. into the unstable situation in Egypt by withholding military or other assistance.
The administration’s motivation appears to be dissatisfaction with the overthrow of the Morsi government following its election last year, an election that followed the overthrow of the Mubarak regime. Now both Mubarak and Morsi are in custody, and Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi appears to be running things.
The fundamental question to be asked here is the nature of U.S. interests in Egypt. This is the answer: U.S. interests are best-served by the existence of a stable government, especially if that government is itself committed to regional stability. That is to say, if it recognizes the continued existence of Israel.
Our policies toward Egypt ought to be directed and confined to that end. Beyond the underlying principle, it is not really much of our business whether The Morsi-backed Muslim Brotherhood or the military runs Egypt.
This does not, however, appear to be the underlying philosophy of the administration in Washington. At least to the extent that it objects to the military overthrow of President Morsi, that objection can only be interpreted as a reaction to the forced unseating of a democratically elected leader. (There are those, by the way, who would wonder whether Morsi really was democratically elected, but that’s another issue.)
We yield to no one in our belief in the wisdom of the democratic process, and we wish along with most Americans that universal respect could be given to human rights. But we also recognize the right and necessity of other nations to select their leaders as they choose to do so. In terms of U.S. interests, the ways by which someone accedes to power in Egypt or any nation other than this one are less significant than their plans for the use of the power that accession to office brings with it.
If the Obama administration wishes to make the case that the Sissi administration is likely to be less amenable to the goals of U.S. foreign policy, then let it make that case clearly, quickly and forcefully. If it does so, then it may be pertinent to consider reactive sanctions.
To date, however, the case that has been made in Washington is a far more abstract one, and one which also happens to be outside our scope of influence. The U.S. cannot and should try to dictate how other nations choose their leadership. Rather, we should prepare to influence whatever leadership is chosen to work toward goals that include the best interests of this nation.