After the killing, Barack Obama kept his counsel. It fell to John Kerry, the American secretary of state, to speak out—and then he merely called on Egypt’s leaders to “step back from the brink”. Likewise in Britain David Cameron, the prime minister, left it to William Hague, the foreign secretary, to rap the generals over the knuckles. America’s protest at the ousting of Mr Morsi had been to delay the supply of some F-16 fighter jets to Egypt. But that modest gesture was more than undone just before the shootings. In an unwise precedent, the administration declined to say Egypt had suffered a coup, because to do so could have triggered an automatic block on aid.
The Muslim Brothers—and other Muslims across the Middle East—will conclude from all this that the West applies one standard when secularists are under attack and another when Islamists are. Democracy, they will gather, is not a universal system of government, but a trick for bringing secularists to power. It is hard to think of a better way for the West to discourage the Brothers from re-entering Egypt’s political process.
David Rohde remembers that the US has “used the same logic in Pakistan,” to no effect:
Washington has given $11 billion in military aid to the Pakistani army in the name of maintaining American “influence” in Islamabad. From new equipment to reimbursements for Pakistani military operations, the money flowed year after year, despite complaints from American officials that the Pakistanis were misusing funds and inflating bills. … One of the lessons from the last decade in Pakistan is that money might buy American officials a seat at the table. But Pakistani generals — or Egyptian generals — will not necessarily listen.
And they will definitely blame their problems on us. For the last decade in Pakistan, military officials have used pro-military media outlets to spread a message that an all-powerful United States is behind the country’s ills. Some of the same patterns are emerging in Egypt. Pro-military Egyptian media blame the United States for the country’s problems.
General al-Sissi is already blaming the US for “turning its back on Egyptians” by not sending him fresh F-16s. He also insists that he and his generals are willing to give up power:
[Lally] Weymouth: Aren’t the Americans warning the interim government against any further civil strife or bloodshed?
Sisi: The U.S. administration has a lot leverage and influence with the Muslim Brotherhood and I’d really like the U.S. administration to use this leverage with them to resolve the conflict.
Whoever will clean these squares or resolve these sit-ins will not be the military. There is a civil police and they are assigned to these duties. On the 26th of [July], more than 30 million people went out onto the streets to give me support. These people are waiting for me to do something.
Weymouth: How can you assure the U.S. that you don’t want the military to rule Egypt—that the army wants to go back to its barracks?
Sisi: Mark my words and take me very seriously: The Egyptian military is different from other militaries around the world.
Weymouth: Do you really want to have civilian rule here?
Sisi: Yes, absolutely.
Recent Dish on the military coup here.