A Curious Bystander

Megan Chrisler, Features Editor

As a recent visitor to a country that has only just ended a civil war, the events in Egypt and National Public, Radio’s David Greene’s comments about the country heading that direction have been ominous. Increased attacks on the nation’s Christian minority have resulted in church burnings and countless murders. The Associated Press reported that 25 off-duty policeman were executed. Britain’s foreign secretary, William Hague, said that it is, “hard to overstate the levels of hatred and mistrust between the various sides of politics in Egypt,” and that it may take decades for not just Egyptian, but also Middle Eastern conflicts to reside.

America, it seems, is not all that innocent, and perhaps it’s not the best global policeman when one considers its international military sales. NPR has listed the top ten American businesses to benefit from Egypt’s military needs, calling the country “one of the largest recipients of U.S. foreign military aid.” Only halfway towards the top of the list at number five, Boeing is still “the second-largest defense contractor in the world” and $22.8 million richer because of Egypt’s militaristic buys (the first on the list was Lockheed-Martin with an increased income of $259 million). In contrast, the BBC reports that the European Union has only given 140 million euros in military aid (over $18 million), meaning that Boeing alone has given more to the Egyptian military than the entire EU. That being said, America is also in the lead for giving other aid to Egypt, which includes but is not limited to sanitation, transportation and various society groups. BBC claims that the EU has only given 16 million euros (over $21 million) in such aid when they have promised one billion euros (just over one billion U.S. dollars), while America has given $250 million. The reason for not giving the full amount is due to failure to reach requirements that decrease the violence and corruption in the Egyptian government. Countries all over the world have suspended military aid until the tension decreases, except for Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait, who have pledged $12 billion.

Partly because of this, President Barack Obama has had some difficulty with the situation. Many have criticized America’s failure to suspend aid like its allies, such as Michele Dunne of the Hariri Center for the Middle East, who says that this and America’s blunder with Syria may give jihadists a stronger base for anti-Western views. Some think foreign policy towards Egypt should be completely redone (which worked really well for healthcare, right?). He, of course, does not condone the increased violence; embassies in the area have been shut down and he has cancelled joint military exercises. At the same time, he stresses American willingness to work with the nation to get back a democratic government.

The kicker, though, is a statement made by Jon Alterman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies: “The United States has played a vital role lubricating the Egyptian-Israeli relationship, which has led up to being a huge boon to Israeli security. If you don’t have as close a U.S.-Egyptian relationship, that is going to have definite visible effects on the Egyptian-Israeli border.

So now it’s out in the open: this is, at least partially, about Israel. When asking about views on the Egyptian crisis, you are really asking about views on Israel. How deeply is the United States involved with Israel, and how deeply should we be involved? So involved that we are willing to make one of the biggest military contributions to a situation that has killed thousands already? It undermines U.S. credibility, to use a phrase by the anti-aid proponents. This, in turn, brings up America’s role as world leader. It’s time to start stepping down, not just because the world is changing but also because it’s dangerous to let one entity have all that power. That power, don’t forget, is billions of dollars in debt, has been caught spying on its own citizens, and has huge political division problems of its own.

Of course, there is no easy fix either. America’s foreign military aid is not the crucial dividing point; there are too many players in this game and too many political clashes within the heart of Egypt to make it uncomplicated. What America can do, however, is do exactly the opposite of the EU; namely, be clear and determined in an approach to the situation. Obama’s position is a confusing one, to say the least; how does one help a nation that elects a president one year and overthrows him the next? But America has already shown him that they don’t like flip-floppers in the last presidential election, so perhaps taking a side and sticking to it is worth the criticism in the long run.