The American Response To Egypt, Ctd

Shadi Hamid sketches two ways forward in Egypt:

I think there are two options. First is the Algeria or eradication scenario, in which the military and old-regime elements simply try to destroy the Muslim Brotherhood. That’s the repression option. Then you have the referendum option. I don’t know how you would do it, exactly. The military has dug in so deep to its position, and it’s already calling the Muslim Brotherhood terrorists, so I don’t know if this is realistic. But typically what you’d do is have some vote where both sides agree to abide by the will of the people.

At least in the near term, though, I think we could just be in a continuation of this low-level civil conflict, this war of attrition between the two sides. A stalemate with violence, if you will. The short-term outlook is very dark now.

Ambers explains why the US has so little leverage in either scenario:

The Egyptian military holds all of the cards. And the guns. And the credibility with non-Islamists. It is not clear whether Egyptian nationalists prioritize the protection of the rights of Islamist minorities, which is one reason why the military can act with relative impunity and with immunity (to an extent) from a blow to their standing.

The U.S. relies on Egypt for counter-terrorism intelligence, and this relationship has been more or less continuous since well before September 11. Countries (like Russia) have used intelligence sharing as an excuse to get away with activities that diverge from U.S. policy interests. They understand that, since 9/11, the U.S. government has invested heavily in the concept of a grand global alliance against terrorism, and that the relative importance of a country’s intelligence relationship with U.S. counterparts is much higher.

Drum still wants to pull military aid:

I think it’s been fairly clear for over a month that the Egyptian military began planning all of this in the spring, possibly even earlier. It was rolled out very carefully, very strategically, and very ruthlessly. And while Mohamed Morsi may have been no saint, it probably didn’t matter. The military never had the slightest intention of allowing true civilian rule, whether from the Muslim Brotherhood or anyone else.

Marc Champion makes the Tiananmen Square comparison:

Admittedly, the Muslim Brotherhood protests aren’t the same as those by the students in Tiananmen Square. The Chinese protests were largely spontaneous, the protesters didn’t belong to any one organization, and they didn’t represent a (despotic albeit elected) previous government. Nevertheless, at least 700 people have died since the Egypt military assumed power in a coup July 3, most of them unarmed civilians. And it is just mendacious to suggest, as the Egyptian government does, that responsibility for the killing lies with the Brotherhood — no matter what the organization’s faults, and despite its members fighting back.

You have to ask: How would the world be reacting if the victims in Cairo were secularists or anti-communists?

Larison points out that the “US may not be endorsing specific parties or individuals, but it is tacitly endorsing the coup and the government that was created by it”:

Unfortunately, this manages to combine a bad policy of supporting the Egyptian military regime with the insulting pretense that the US is merely a passive observer, instead of a patron, of the offending government.

Much like Obama’s Syria policy, his reaction to the violence in Egypt seems guaranteed to please no one in Egypt or the US. The US isn’t in a position to improve conditions inside Egypt, but it does have control over how it reacts to events there. By law, the US is obliged to suspend military aid to Egypt because of the military’s role in deposing the elected president. Following this week’s brutality, Washington has the perfect excuse to do what it should have already done weeks ago.

Ali Gharib nods:

[T]he U.S. does fund unsavory regimes that brutalize and oppress their own people. That’s what makes Egypt so different from, say, Syria or Iran, where the U.S. isn’t tied directly to any faction by its bountiful support. And this, in turn, is exactly what makes Obama’s failure to take decisive action amid Egypt’s crisis all the more feckless. The president can not mention, if he so chooses, that the U.S. overwhelming supports one side of the current crisis, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

Beinart plays down the question of aid, but still thinks Obama’s words missed the mark:

We winked at a coup that overturned free elections in Algeria in 1992. We tried to foment one against Hamas after it won democratic elections among the Palestinians in 2006. And now, in the eyes of many, we’ve done the same in Egypt.

At this point, few will still believe Obama. Still, he should have said bluntly that the U.S. supports the rights of Islamist parties to peacefully seek power as long as they respect democratic norms. Freely elected Islamist governments, as Mohammed Morsi showed, can be frightening. But the alternative, Obama should have said, is worse. For the evidence, just turn on your TV screen.

Finally, Amy Davidson zooms out:

The arc of history is long, but it shouldn’t bend toward a mosque full of bodies. Is Egypt on a path toward democracy, on which it has encountered some bumps, or is it on a smooth road, paved to support armored vehicles, back to military rule? What is happening now is critical, not only for Egypt and for whatever the Administration hopes to achieve in the peace process (or prevent in Syria) but for a certain idea that democracy can work and, within a country, can be protected through democratic instruments. It will be tragic if Egypt demonstrates this only by negative example.

Previous Dish on the debate here.