The United States and its friends in the region have a vital stake in the success of Egypt’s transition. U.S. policies should aim to support the forces in Egypt — and there are many — that want a democratic system and a healthy economy. That means providing aid, ideally even more aid than is planned. But it also means making clear to Egyptians what that aid is for. U.S. support should be conditioned on the Egyptian government’s behavior, both internationally and domestically. The Morsi government needs to understand that it will not get U.S. assistance, or much help from the rest of the international community, if it clamps down on freedoms at home, persecutes religious minorities such as the Copts or fails to meet its basic international obligations.
The Obama administration has not been wrong to reach out to the popularly elected government in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood won that election, and no one doubts that it did so fairly. We either support democracy or we don’t. But the administration has not been forthright enough in making clear, publicly as well as privately, what it expects of that government.
Out of fear of making the United States the issue in Egyptian politics, the Obama administration, like past administrations, has been too reticent about stating clearly the expectations that we and the democratic world have for Egyptian democracy: a sound constitution that protects the rights of all individuals, an open press, a free and vital opposition, an independent judiciary and a thriving civil society.