Leverage works only if there is a chance that it will be used. Given the United States’ history of unwavering support for the Egyptian military, its threats to end aid have no credibility. At this point, only an actual cutoff or suspension would shape the military’s calculations. To those who argue that we must continue providing aid in the interest of stability, one has only to point to the past three years: Aid has flowed uninterrupted, and just look at all the stability.
Today the most destabilizing force in Egypt is the military itself. It is the greatest obstacle to any hope of political reconciliation and stability. The Brotherhood’s followers, who just last year chose peaceful competition in an electoral system, now see their leaders hunted down and their comrades killed in the streets — all by a U.S.-backed military. In the United States, commentators call on the Brotherhood to join the political process and, in the words of New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, halt “its war with the military.” Yet the Brotherhood and its followers did not choose this war. While the military seeks their extermination, it will be hard for them to believe that they will have a place in post-coup Egypt’s political order.
Our only hope of turning the situation in a more positive direction is to make unmistakably clear to the military that the path it is on will lead to an end of U.S. assistance and international isolation.