Updated: September 17, 2013 8:17AM
After more than 600 Egyptians were murdered by their own government this week, President Barack Obama’s rebuke of the military-led government fell woefully short.
Obama on Thursday pulled the U.S. out of important joint military exercises with Egypt scheduled for September, offering up a taste of U.S. anger in the aftermath of the military’s deadly assault Wednesday on supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.
It’s a start, but not nearly enough to scrub the blood off American hands and to make known the U.S. view of such horrific behavior.
Today, we join a growing chorus calling for the U.S. to suspend $1.3 billion in annual American military aid to Egypt, dollars used to help finance the military’s brutal crackdown on Wednesday.
For too long in the Middle East and elsewhere, the U.S. has sought to pick winners and losers to meet our strategic needs.
In Egypt, this has meant supporting a military regime that stepped in after Morsi’s ouster and, through its repressive and deadly actions, has now clearly demonstrated its utter contempt for its citizens, democracy and democratic ideals.
The U.S. had hoped its aid could serve as leverage to keep the military’s most repressive tendencies in check and to nudge the generals toward honoring their commitment to return power to an elected government this year.
And it may even have been the right strategy, until this week’s events changed everything and proved it fatally flawed. The brutal crackdown by security forces, the third since Morsi’s ouster, left more than six hundred dead and nearly 4,000 injured, according to the latest tally released on Thursday. The mayhem continued Thursday when protesters railing against the military were warned they could be beaten back with lethal force.
It’s time to weigh strategy against morality — and go with what’s morally right.
The suspension of U.S. aid makes clear we refuse to allow our tax dollars to go toward bullets aimed at Egyptians.
Suspension of aid — until the killings stop and the military takes concrete steps toward restoring democracy in Egypt — makes clear the U.S. supports genuine democracy.
Suspension of aid makes clear what the U.S. believes is morally right.
Will it make a difference?
The doubters say the U.S.’s $1.3 billion in aid is peanuts compared to what has flowed in from Persian Gulf states, which back the military, since the coup that deposed Morsi.
Are there risks?
It could rob the U.S. of one kind of leverage, usher in even greater instability and create new threats for Israel.
But standing idly by after the slaughter of hundreds of Egyptians by their own military is far riskier.
The U.S. has long attempted to influence the course of events in the Middle East, as national interests all but compel us to do.
But we cannot do so now, not when the odds of success are so low and the price
is American support for a murderous
Continued support for the military pushes Egypt toward dictatorship, not democracy.
Continued support for the military sanctions their murderous ways.
Suspending U.S. aid could push the military to end the bloodshed and start on the path toward restored democracy.
And if it doesn’t? The U.S. will at least have done what it is morally just and right.