What Happens If We Cut Off Egypt?

by Patrick Appel

Noah Millman is unsure:

America already has had the experience multiple times of cutting off clients who have crossed a red line of one sort or another. For example, we abandoned the Shah when he had plainly lost the support of his people. This did not win us any goodwill once the Iranian revolution brought to power a profoundly anti-American regime – because the Iranians had not forgotten America’s longstanding support of the Shah, and because the Ayatollahs had their own reasons for setting themselves up in opposition to America.

For another example, in response to Pakistan’s escalating program of nuclear weapons acquisition – and, not incidentally, in response to the collapse of the Soviet Union – beginning in 1990 the United States increasingly distanced itself from Pakistan. Over the course of the next decade, Pakistan still developed a nuclear arsenal, a generation of Pakistani officers grew up without relationships with the United States, and Pakistan became deeply involved in the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. We all know what happened next.

His larger point:

On a relative basis, Egypt is much less-influential than it was fifty years ago. On an absolute basis, though, it’s a much, much bigger country. If we decide that Egypt doesn’t much matter to us, I think we can safely say that we’ve decided that the Middle East doesn’t much matter to us.

Which it well might not. But I am not shocked that the American government is reluctant to decide on the fly and under the pressure of rapidly-changing circumstances in one country to significantly reorder its priorities in this part of the world.