Bang for the buck

Bang for the buck

The United States supports Egypt every year, this year to the tune of $1.3 billion, in defense aid.
So, what are we buying? An Egyptian army that is intrinsically tied to the Pentagon, an Egyptian government that is an ally in America’s war on terrorism and an Arab country that keeps the peace with Israel, albeit a cold one.
That’s a lot of bang for the buck.
So what do we do with that money should the regime of President Hosni Mubarak fall, to be replaced by a more extreme, perhaps even jihadist regime?
Hopefully nothing.
First, it’s not a foregone conclusion that the extremists will take over the government once Mubarak leaves — which must happen sooner or later. True, the strongest, best-organized opposition political party in Egypt is the Muslim Brotherhood, whose members are certainly not friends of Israel.
But the Muslim Brotherhood is not the strongest political force in Egypt. That distinction goes to the Egyptian army, which could have much to lose by an extremist takeover of the country — about $1.3 billion worth.
(By the way, leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood called a press conference Wednesday to announce they do not want to take over the government, merely to be a part of it, according to the Jerusalem Post. You can believe them or not, but this much is so, they know Egypt is not Iran, it is a traditionally secular state in which they are still a minority.)
So one could argue that $1.3 billion in aid is a good investment for the United States. It might just keep Egypt in the U.S. camp and its peace treaty with Israel in force.
In fact, it’s so good an investment that Congress and the president might want to increase it. If the level of the U.S. aid to Egypt remains the same in the future, while the costs of arms and other equipment go up, as they likely will, then effectively the U.S. support for the Egyptian military will shrink.
Meanwhile, U.S. military aid to Israel — scheduled to reach $3 billion this year — rises commensurate with cost increases, according to JTA.
We think U.S. financial support for Egypt makes sense — bang for the buck, if you will — and despite some suggestions in Congress that the aid should be used as leverage to keep Egypt firmly in the U.S. camp, the carrot approach will work better than the stick.