The United States gives more foreign aid to Egypt than any country except for Israel, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. U.S. foreign assistance to Egypt has averaged about $2 billion a year since 1979, when Egypt struck a peace treaty with Israel. Since then, the most populous Middle Eastern and Arab nation has been under American influence and where the wind blows from Washington, Egypt goes in that direction.
Military aid has held steady at about $1.3 billion since 1987. That is crucial for peace in the region, as it is “untouchable compensation” for maintaining a balance of power between Israel and Egypt while the U.S. military enjoys priority access to the Suez Canal and Egyptian
airspace. Economic aid to the country, meanwhile, has steadily declined. Thirty years ago it was equivalent to 7% of Egypt’s economy, while today it is around 0.7% — a tenfold drop.
What has made the United States reconsider its agenda in Egypt? First off, the recent coup means that none of the new members of the cabinet are affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which ruled the country for a year. In that year, it has made all the mistakes which a political party can make: enormously inept at running the country while in the meantime being all-around corrupt and making promises that it could not fulfill. However, the coup showed that Egypt has been run by the military since the Nasser era. In reality, the military has all the power: If it wants Morsi or Mubarak to go, it will get its way.
And should we give aid to a country run by a military dictatorship (similar to Burma)? It is a middle-tier dictatorship, but by that logic we can also give aid to Sudan or Syria. Those countries are also similar in many aspects: they have an important geographic locale, with Syria connecting the Middle East and Turkey, while Sudan connects North Africa to Sub-Saharan Africa. Egypt connects Africa to Asia, and being so close to Israel we cannot forget that it is strategic to keep the region stable. Aid to Egypt is largely about maintaining balance, and right now that is what we need. We do not want more trouble in the region, with these states having military conflicts or civil wars. So we should keep Egypt at bay: If its military answers to the United States and receives aid, it can keep its treaty with Israel and be loyal to Western states. And no matter who rules the country (Muslim Brotherhood or a secular regime), the military can always overrule them.
But we have to ask the question: Will Egypt ever democratize under such a situation? Wouldn’t it be better if we give no support to the nation, and let its own people — secularists, Muslim Brotherhood members, or young, upcoming politicians — solve problems? Considering that the median age in the country is 25 years), this might take decades, but we have to give it a chance.