Andrew Bacevich writes: When it comes to Egypt, the U.S. has little leverage and therefore no real options. That’s according to the prevailing wisdom, at least.
Yet this analysis — endlessly reiterated in mainstream commentary — is misleading. The absence of leverage does not preclude options. It certainly does not require the Obama administration to debase itself by pretending that the military overthrow of a freely elected government is not a coup or by accepting the Egyptian army’s slaughter of civilians with no more than a tsk-tsk. The administration may choose to do these things, but not because circumstances oblige it to do so.
Identifying our options in Egypt requires examining U.S. policy in a broader context, since the events unfolding in that country are emblematic of a much larger failure.
It may help to recall how the United States forged its perverse relationship with the Egyptian army in the first place. That relationship dates from the 1978 Camp David accords brokered by President Jimmy Carter. Rather than receiving a commission, the broker in this case ended up on the hook, promising to compensate the contracting parties for doing what each had agreed to do. From that day to the present, the United States has annually funneled billions of taxpayer dollars to Egypt and Israel. Rather than furthering the cause of mutual understanding — funding education programs or cultural exchanges, for example — most of that money has gone to the purchase of advanced weaponry.
What are we to make of this arrangement? Writing in the New York Times, Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt recently noted that “in the four decades before Camp David, Israel and Egypt fought several major wars; in the nearly four decades since, none.”
True enough, and a welcome development. Yet no less true, if much less welcome, is this: In the four decades before Camp David, the U.S. had managed to steer clear of war in the Middle East; in the nearly four decades since, U.S. involvement in hostilities throughout the region has become routine, with little to show as a result. [Continue reading…]