I’m noticing an uncomfortably high number of people fall into former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s trap: saying because he was democratically elected, the coup that ousted him from office represents even less democracy. Keep in mind that the military’s actions were exactly what a large number of citizens wanted, and they have seen the military make good on promises to the people before, albeit slowly. While we’re debating that, the U.S. is debating its own policy in Egypt. What is it, exactly?
Foreign aid is at the heart of that matter, and the two perspectives on it are represented by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who wants to withdraw it, and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who does not. McCain says that while Morsi was a failure as president, the coup was no way to get rid of him, and the U.S. should respond by refusing to side with the military and cutting off aid set to flow to them. Menendez does not want to cut off the aid entirely, but would prefer to use it as leverage in order to ensure that they lead a faster transition to a true democracy.
McCain has long been a critic of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood (new album drops August 1), so I don’t believe he’s ignorant of Morsi’s moves toward authoritarianism or has forgotten about them. To the average Egyptian democratic activist, those are enough cause to get rid of him, much more so than his failures on the economic front – although those certainly didn’t help when it comes to young unemployed Egyptians. After dealing with Mubarak, it’s understandable that they’d be in little mood to wait for the next election before they got the leader they envisioned. Don’t expect American standards.
The White House hasn’t expressed support for either the military or Morsi, which could be to their advantage, assuming they do the worthwhile thing and establish a plan for aid. Their mistake while he was in office was not to make Morsi fear that he could lose their support, political or financial – the same mistake, some argue, that they made when Hosni Mubarak was still president. It never had to be an aid-or-no-aid proposition, which is what McCain is perpetuating.
My idea is a much less obvious version of “the person who sets out to be more democratic in this span of time gets the money.” It starts with zero dollars, or at least a 50 percent-plus reduction of the current amount. If the military meets certain criteria, they get more money. If they miss deadlines, the amount stays the same. If they fuck it up completely, the government throws its support behind Morsi. And if and when he gets back into office after that, the entire process starts again.
Either way, the U.S. wins. They get a stable democratic partner in the Middle East, or they get to keep their money. And the contingency factor reduces the opportunity to call this imperialist. They’re not telling the country what to do – they’re just making it clear what they will and will not pay for.