What Obama misunderstands about Egypt

What the White House fails to understand is that the Egyptian military has very different ideas about what “reconciliation” should look like. Its goal is to destroy the Muslim Brotherhood, its traditional adversary, by killing as many Brothers as possible and by jailing or otherwise hounding the others. As for the surprise registered in the White House that Egypt’s military rulers didn’t listen to repeated American pleas for reconciliation and compromise: How hard is it to believe that Middle Eastern potentates promised one thing to the U.S., and then did something else entirely?

The generals in Cairo have made cold calculations. One of them is that brutality pays dividends. Yes, there may be short-term consequences to the brutal crackdown: There’s still a decent chance that the U.S. will suspend aid to the Egyptian military. But the generals understood that a suspension of aid might be possible in the aftermath of the sort of crackdown we’re seeing now. Which means that they have come to think that wiping out the Brotherhood is worth the risk. (They also know that there are plenty of wealthy sheiks in the Persian Gulf who viscerally oppose the Brotherhood and who would be happy to supplement Egypt’s defense budget.)