Washington’s response to this crisis has largely been business as usual. Just as the United States once clung to Mubarak, the Obama administration has hewed closely to Morsi, offering a visit to Washington and continuing to deliver the annual $1.3 billion in military assistance — including a recent shipment of F-16 aircraft. The administration’s response to Morsi’s majoritarian bullying has been muted. Egypt’s opposition and nonpartisan human rights groups believe, understandably, that Washington has resumed ignoring undemocratic practices so long as the Egyptian government protects U.S. strategic interests. Outside of opening new contacts with the ruling Muslim Brotherhood, there has been no fundamental reassessment of U.S. policy toward Egypt since Mubarak’s removal in 2011. Our military and economic aid packages remain the same — except that nearly all democracy and civil-society assistance has been cut off.
It’s time for a new approach. Both the administration and Congress need to fully review military and economic assistance to Egypt. What does the Egyptian army need to bring security to the Sinai? Probably not F-16s. What conditions should Congress place on aid? Previous packages have appropriately been conditioned on progress toward democracy, but the administration has insisted on a national security waiver and has exercised it to provide the aid regardless of Egypt’s behavior. Perhaps Congress should not permit such a waiver in the next aid bill.