Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Wrong Way to Sway Egypt

In Tuesday's Op-Ed section of the Washington Post, Jon B. Alterman criticizes the recent proposed bill to reduce foreign aid to Egypt. The FY-07 budget discussed in the House last Thursday coupled together two key issues: US promotion of democracy in Egypt and the current state of US foreign aid for Egypt. Alterman does not support linking finance aid initiatives with Egypt to its growth of a democratic state (or lack there of) because combining these two issues would be “counterproductive.”

According to the op-ed,

“There are many in Washington who think that Egyptian politics turned around last spring because of President Bush's demonstrated resolve to promote political change in that country. They further believe that the leadership in Cairo reverted to its bad old ways when Bush's attention strayed.

“They are wrong on both counts. Profound change was never in the air in Egypt. Some Americans may have been ebullient about changes afoot there, but Egyptians' level of political participation told a different story: Fewer than 5 percent of the electorate bothered to vote in last May's referendum on allowing multi-candidate elections for president, and perhaps 20 percent voted in the presidential election itself.

“Misreading this history causes many to believe that the United States should turn up the pressure and condition its aid to Egypt on continued political reform. This is a move that makes sense on its face. It also happens to make bad policy. The U.S. government should continue to press hard for reform in Egypt, and it should closely scrutinize the aid package. But linking the two would be counterproductive, if not disastrous.

“Like the aging villas in downtown Cairo, U.S. aid to Egypt is the fading legacy of another time. In the 1970s, when peace between Israel and any of its Arab neighbors was a fantastic dream, and when picking Egypt off from the East Bloc was a major coup in the Cold War, Egypt was worth every penny of the billions of dollars in U.S. aid that it received.

“Three decades later, the Soviet Union is gone, the Arab League has embraced a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and al-Jazeera's maps label Israel as such. Egypt helps the United States in a wide number of areas -- especially with regard to counterterrorism cooperation and Arab-Israeli peace issues -- but it is increasingly difficult to find instances in which Egyptian assistance has been vital to the success of a critical U.S. mission.”

To read this article in full, click here


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