If Obama wants American rhetoric about democracy to be taken seriously in the wake of a military intervention, aid to Egypt’s army has to be on the chopping block, as our laws state. Egyptians are already suspicious of American intentions -- and they will be even more skeptical of America’s goals if we fail to respect our own legislative checks on foreign assistance as they try to build their own democracy.
Continuing aid as if nothing happened would reinforce the perception among Egyptians that all America cares about is maintaining good ties with unaccountable generals and that President Obama’s policy has little to do with building democratic institutions and empowering the “masses” as his administration so often claims.
Indeed, the generals’ latest intervention is more insidious and duplicitous than their role after they nudged Husni Mubarak from the presidency in 2011. The heads of the armed forces are selling nationalism to the population while remaining above the law.
Egypt’s generals do not wish to govern. Their calculation is that so long as they are not visibly running the country, they are safe. And they have learned that it is better to play the role of fire department while letting civilians of different political stripes assume the role of permanent arsonists.
While the voices of Egyptians and the mobilized masses seem to matter so much when popularly impeaching an elected president or a long-time dictator, the voice of those same masses when it comes to calls for cutting off American aid seem to resonate much less in Washington -- affirming many Egyptians’ belief that America has double standards and damaging the United States’ image at a crucial moment in Egypt’s history.