The Free Press, Mankato, MN

August 17, 2013

Get tough on Egypt

Why it matters: The Obama administration's unwillingness to withhold aid hurts U.S. credibility on human rights

The Mankato Free Press

---- — It’s telling in a troubling way that the Obama administration has to consider its options on U.S. aid to Egypt in the aftermath of the military government’s slaughter of 500 plus innocent, mostly unarmed, protestors.

There was a time in our history when standing up for human rights around the world wasn’t a calculated policy consideration. Now, we often seem hesitant to do the right thing.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is calling for Obama to cut off the $1.5 billion in U.S. aid that goes to Egypt. We join that call.

Obama said on Thursday, he was consulting national security experts on taking additional action on sanctions. So far, we’ve condemned the killing of protestors, canceled joint military exercises and delayed the shipment of four F-16 fighters to Egypt. Canceling aid should be our next step and we should take it soon.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., have called for the halting of U.S. military aid to Egypt. Leahy has proposed a plan that ties renewal of aid to Egypt’s re-establishing a democratic government. Leahy has proposed a three-step process that provides more aid as Egypt frees political prisoners, sets up a democratic government and shows a commitment to human rights.

Obama condemned the violence but said the U.S. needs to maintain its relationship with Egypt. That may seem like a reasoned approach, but Obama should understand that sometimes in a relationship, one party tells the other party their actions threaten that relationship. Egypt should get that message loud and clear, and so far, it doesn’t appear the military government is paying much attention.

Paul concluded that the ouster of democratically elected Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was a military coup and by law, U.S. aid should have been suspended immediately. While many in the House and Senate agree with that sentiment, they were not ready to vote for it. Paul’s resolution pulling aid to Egypt lost on an 86-13 vote last month in the Senate, according to The Hill.

While the current military government does have some supporters who contend their takeover was not a coup but a “people’s revolution,” reasonable people looking at the actions would conclude it was more coup than revolution.

That is something the Obama administration should also consider. And while Egyptians condemn Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood for their attempt to monopolize control of all institutions, a coup is not the answer. And for those Brotherhood members who have been documented in acts of violence against other religions, there should be justice.

Clearly, the U.S. has strategic interests in Egypt. The country is the most populous in the Middle East. It controls significant economic assets such as the Suez Canal, through which major portions of the world’s oil supplies travel. Egypt has long been a U.S. ally and could be an even bigger and better ally should it grow as a democracy.

The U.S. has long stood up for the human rights of oppressed people around the world. By hesitating on Egypt sanctions we only give our enemies fuel to their anti-U.S. rhetoric that we only back human rights when it’s in our economic interest.

The recent actions of the military government are unacceptable. Pulling aid will let them know we are serious about defending human rights around the world, first and foremost.

Other views on this topic

Los Angeles Times

When the Egyptian military overthrew Mohamed Morsi in July, little more than a year after he was elected president, it insisted that it was acting as a guardian of democracy and political pluralism. Whatever credibility that claim may have had at the time, it was shattered Wednesday by a bloody crackdown on pro-Morsi protesters that was followed by imposition of a monthlong state of emergency.

The Obama administration said that it “strongly condemns the use of violence against protesters in Egypt” and expressed opposition to imposition of a state of emergency.

But statements of dismay go only so far. The administration continued to temporize over whether Egypt would pay a price in the form of any reduction in the $1.5 billion in mostly military aid it receives annually from Washington.

Even as he condemned Wednesday’s violence, Kerry said he thought the path to a political solution was “still open.” But if the Egyptian military blocks that path, there should be consequences.