C’mon. Did anyone really think O was going to pull the plug?

“We think it would not be in the best interests of the United States” to change its aid program at this time, Carney said. Asked if that would mean the administration would be cutting off aid in the near-term, Carney repeated his response: “we think that would not be in our best interests.”

“Wait,” you say, “aren’t they required to cut aid when a country’s democratically elected leader is deposed in a coup?” Indeed, but that depends on what the meaning of “coup” is:

While not directly ordering a pre-cooked outcome of a legal review into Mohammed Morsi’s ouster last week, the officials said Monday that the White House has made clear in inter-agency discussions that continued aid to Egypt’s military is a U.S. national security priority that would be jeopardized by a coup finding. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss internal administration deliberations…

Some officials concede that a “no-coup” finding may become increasingly difficult to justify given the rising violence among Morsi supporters, opponents and security forces that has led to fears of a civil war.

The “no coup” finding isn’t predetermined, it’s just that the White House … strongly suggests to its subordinates that they not find otherwise. The way they’re going to finesse this, I assume, is by claiming that it’s not really a coup unless the military seizes power for itself. If they seize it with an eye to preempting an authoritarian power grab and returning power to the people (think Honduras 2009, a coup that Obama, er, infamously opposed), then it’s kinda sorta democratic and therefore not a “real” coup.

McCain disagrees:

“I have never favored, and I do not favor, one individual or party over another in Egypt. Who governs Egypt is for the citizens of Egypt to decide. Instead, I continue to stand for democratic values and the creation of effective democratic institutions that can enable the Egyptian people to determine their own future freely and peacefully. I believe the United States must support democracy in Egypt because it is the best foundation for that country’s long-term stability and prosperity and for peace and security in the Middle East…

“This is an incredibly difficult decision, but we have to learn the lessons of history and remain true to our values. If millions of Egyptians come to believe that democracy offers them no opportunity to advance their goals peacefully, it will only fuel violence and extremism. That is a path to civil conflict. Indeed, I am deeply concerned by reports today that Egyptian soldiers fired on hundreds of civilians this morning, killing at least 51 people and wounding more than 300, and by calls from the Muslim Brotherhood for a popular uprising against the military.

And so, for the first and maybe last time, the neoconservative view aligns with the libertarian/palecon view on foreign aid. In fairness to Maverick, there is a bona fide strategy at work here: A neoconservative would argue that the only way to keep Islamists peaceful and leave them utterly discredited is to be patient when they win elections and trust that they’ll screw up so badly that the voters will turn against them. You can’t persuade Egyptians that Islamism is a dead end; they need to see it for themselves, the way Iranians have seen it. (“You don’t get to arrive at Thomas Jefferson unless you first pass through Martin Luther.”) That assumes, though, that an Islamist regime would submit itself to another popular vote once it was safely elected. Egyptians feared that the Brotherhood wouldn’t, which is why they clamored for a coup. And it also assumes that a discredited Islamist movement would remain peaceful once turned out of office and keep plugging away to get reelected rather than start picking up guns. Would they?

Bottom line: Realistically, having just seen some of the largest demonstrations in world history against Morsi and the Brotherhood, there’s no way the White House was about to cross the Egyptian people again by yanking aid in protest over Morsi being deposed. Virtually every move that Obama’s made towards the Middle East since 2011 has been with an eye to making nice with post-Arab Spring populations after decades of the U.S. supporting regional dictators. (This also explains the White House’s anti-Assad posture even though the rebels seem just as dangerous to U.S. interests, if not more so.) He saw that the people wanted Mubarak out, so he sided with them. They elected Morsi, so he accepted that. Then they had a new revolution to depose Morsi, which he initially opposed because he didn’t think there was much popular sentiment behind it, but now that the realizes there is, he’s going to kinda sorta side with that. If new elections are held and the Islamists win again, he’ll accept that too. And none of this will result in any aid being yanked, for fear of alienating Egyptians further. Whatever he can do to build goodwill, in his own stumbling half-assed way, he’ll do it.

This point is well taken, though:

I can think of one thing that would make them cut off aid lickety split: War with Israel, of course. That $2 billion a year that we give them is really just a bribe, nothing more or less, not to make the region even nuttier than it is by starting something new with Tel Aviv. It might also give the White House a bit of leverage in pressuring the army not to postpone new elections, just in case they start to drift back towards a junta and away from a new elected government. But otherwise, our military aid to Egypt is simply polite extortion by the army to keep the Camp David accords intact. We’ll never do anything to stop it. They might.