Tough Realities Stemming From Avoidance
There are some sobering truths for Americans to digest about our country's true intentions and influence in the Middle East, and Egypt specifically. First, Egypt's military leadership has leverage over any American administration when it comes to the foreign aid we give that country, as both the New York Times and Professor Juan Cole have pointed out (hat tip: Craig).
Second, the Egyptian military leadership wanted to provoke the Muslim Brotherhood to seize what the military thought was their best opportunity to remove them as a political force and relegate them to violent extremist status.
Third, American leaders including the White House and Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham find themselves unprepared and ill-informed about these realities and our true lack of influence. Cutting off the aid will anger Corporate America, the Pentagon, and the Israelis. Plus, any threats to cut off the aid were already undermined when our autocratic gulf state "allies" pledged privately to make up any lost funds to the Egyptians because they want the Muslim Brotherhood marginalized as well. A credible case can be made for cutting off the aid, but we have to be prepared for the security and military consequences of such an action.
Fourth, despite the glossy rhetoric from both the Bush and Obama administrations about establishing democracy in the Middle East, our national interests are actually better rooted in a gradual transition from these states towards more democractic ones over a period of years, unless the American people are prepared for the military and security challenges that come with the reality of such lofty rhetoric.
New National Security Advisor Susan Rice is apparently racing to install a sense of pragmatism into the administration's foreign policy, which undoubtedly incorporates most of these sobering realities into the decision matrix. But our current problems were partially created by poor intelligence in the region and the control Obama's political team had over foreign policy in the first term, when more pragmatism and less risk aversion could have yielded better outcomes by now.
Although she bears some of the blame for these troubles to the degree she had control over them, have no doubt that with her first-hand experience and knowledge of what went wrong, a Hillary Clinton administration will have a "moderation-and-security-first" orientation in its foreign policy, unlike the Obama first term's record of avoidance and rhetoric.