President Obama should end aid to Egypt

These are no small matters. However, Egypt’s leaders do these things not because of American largesse but because it is in their interests. The Egyptians do not want to incite a war, or an arms race, with Israel. They don’t want terrorists roaming free in their northern territories. They fear and loathe the prospect of Iranian expansion. As for overflight rights and passage through the Suez, one can imagine some reluctance in certain crises if the American military were no longer a bountiful presence. But in most of these prospective crises, the United States and Egypt would be on the same side, and in those instances when they may not be, there are other portals of entry. Egypt no longer plays the unique role, politically or geographically, that it once did in the Arab world. …

But this returns us to the question of how much influence the United States could have, regardless of our continued largesse and tolerance. It’s a big question that some political scientist should research: Do the accoutrements of a military alliance—all the money and aid and networking—buy influence for a large power? Do the old techniques of (let’s not mince words) bribery still work in an era when the global system has fractured and smaller powers have lots of options? We’ve devoted hundreds of billions of dollars to the survival of Nouri al-Maliki’s regime in Iraq and Hamid Karzai’s in Afghanistan. But that hasn’t kept them from spitting in our eye when it’s in their perceived interests to do so.