Steven Cook writes:
The United States was not responsible for the inequity of Mubarak’s rule, but it did enable and benefit from it. Mubarak was long Washington’s man in Cairo: he kept open the Suez Canal, repressed the Islamists, and maintained peace with Israel. In return, the United States provided much for Egypt, contributing billions in economic assistance over the years to build up the country’s infrastructure, agricultural technology, and public health programs. Yet this U.S. assistance, while certainly contributing to Egypt’s development, also served to undermine the nationalist legitimacy of the regime. After all, how could Mubarak boast of Egyptian pride and ability when USAID employees were nestled in many government ministries?
At the same time, Egyptians came to see that their country’s foreign policy was being warped for the sake of U.S. largesse — and that the jackboots of the Interior Ministry awaited those who objected too loudly to this bargain. The original sin was Sadat’s separate peace with Israel, which Mubarak inherited and scrupulously upheld.
From the perspective of many Egyptians, this arrangement hopelessly constrained Cairo’s power while freeing Israel and the United States to pursue their regional interests unencumbered. Without the threat of war with Egypt, Israel poured hundreds of thousands of Israelis into settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, invaded Lebanon (twice), declared Jerusalem its capital, and bombed Iraq and Syria. For the United States, Mubarak was pivotal in creating a regional order that made it easier and less expensive for Washington to pursue its interests, from the free flow of oil to the protection of Israel and the prevention of any one country in the region from becoming too dominant. The benefits to Mubarak were clear: approximately $70 billion in economic and military aid over 30 years and the ostensible prestige of being a partner of the world’s superpower.