Around the web, commentators remark upon the latest developments in Egypt, declaring it a lose-lose outcome for the U.S., which risks losing it best regional ally, and of course for the Egyptian people, who find their political scene fractured beyond repair.
New York Times columnist Roger Cohen outlines the importance of the so-called Arab Spring:
For the United States and Europe, this amounts to a colossal strategic failure. Nothing — and certainly not the outcome in Afghanistan or Iraq — was more important than getting Egypt right. President Obama, who began his presidency with an attempt to build bridges to the Arab and Muslim world through a speech in Cairo, has seen his greatest failure in that very city. Post-Tahrir Egypt stands now as a monument to America’s declining influence in the world, even in a nation receiving $1.5 billion in annual aid.
Looking forward, the diplomatic path looks increasingly fraught:
What now? A knee-jerk reaction would be to cut off U.S. military aid. That, however, would only increase the possibility of internal and regional mayhem. It is tempting, given the Egyptian military’s unconscionable attack on its own citizens, but should be resisted. The real lesson in Egypt is of America’s dwindling power under a wavering president whose hesitancy reflects that of most Americans after a decade of interventions. The price Egypt will pay has only just begun to be reckoned.
At the New Yorker, David Remnick writes:
Leaders and diplomats in the West, meanwhile, have run up against the limits of their influence. The task of statesmen is, often enough, to utter the indefensible and the insupportable in the greater interest of their nation. The Obama Administration has carefully avoided using the word “coup”—a linguistic trip wire that would trigger the automatic withdrawal of the $1.3 billion in aid that Washington annually remits to Egypt. On August 1st, a month after the coup, Secretary of State John Kerry declared that the Army was “restoring democracy.” In his parsing of events, “The military was asked to intervene by millions and millions of people. . . . The military did not take over, to the best of our judgment—so far.”
So is there any way to salvage seeming progress toward democracy, in the wake of such a violent upending? Remnick articulates the difficulty of the U.S.’ position, but argues that leaders must stay engaged:
When White House advisers formulate a position that they believe is correct but which manages to repel everyone, they say that they have “hit the sweet spot.” In Egypt, they have struck it with regularity. Obama has succeeded in angering Egypt’s Islamists, its military, and what few liberals remain on the scene—this is the price we pay, above all, for decades of fealty to Hosni Mubarak. But the Administration also insists on the need to stay engaged, even with a military leadership as heedless and as brutal as Sisi’s. After all, it says, if the U.S. withholds its relatively modest contribution, Russia, among others, will surely rush in to make up the shortfall and gain the kind of foothold it has not had in Egypt since it was kicked out by Anwar Sadat, in the early nineteen-seventies.
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