The headline of this article will be enough to anger many. Foreign aid in Egypt has become a polarizing topic. A reason for this is the assumption that aid agreements are mere handouts with no reciprocation. In the case of most international aid packages, this is not true because most agreements are mutually beneficial. The U.S. aid agreement with Egypt would be better understood as an effective business deal and not a humanitarian donation.
By Jim Erickson
Special to The Star
July has been very turbulent in Egypt. In the course of one year, Mohamed Morsi went from being heralded as the first freely elected leader in Egyptian history to being overthrown by record crowds of angry demonstrators. This action has put U.S. diplomatic ties with Egypt in jeopardy.
The United States has laws in place to prevent aid agreements with nations that have militarily overthrown an elected leader. The problem with the laws is that they fail to recognize that there is more to democracy than an election.
In addition to being a dangerously inept leader, ex-President Morsi exploited democracy to attempt to create a one party majoritarian state. This is the same Mohamed Morsi who declared himself above judicial oversight last November, effectively making him a dictator. Last week Egyptians overthrew an elected leader, but they did not overthrow a democratic government. This is an important distinction to make as the U.S. reviews future ties with Egypt. The U.S. should never support the overthrow of a democratic government and in this case they wouldnt have to.
The Camp David Accords, signed in 1978, marked the end of the Israeli-Egyptian war in the Sinai. Through the agreement, Israel was able to gain diplomatic recognition from a key nation, as Egypt became the first Arab nation to recognize the worlds only Jewish state. Israel was also assured of a peaceful southwestern border.
While many in the Arab world were initially furious with Egypt, diplomatic recognition of Israel eventually came from more Arab nations. While still turbulent, Israels status in the region is significantly better than it was before the agreement and Egypt deserves a lot of the credit. The agreement also ensured that Egypt saw $1.5 billion in annual aid from the U.S. While a small portion is for development, the vast majority of the money is military aid. Most is actually spent with American companies, specifically defense firm Lockheed Martin. American companies are the number one recipients of American aid to Egypt.
If the U.S. decides to cancel the agreement, it would put Israel in harms way and would also risk future conflict in the region, which could very easily cost the U.S. taxpayers more than $1.5 billion annually. The U.S. would also lose a key alliance with the most populous Arab state and a strong military.
In addition, another regional power would probably fill the void left by the U.S., greatly diminishing American regional influence. The alliance with Egypt has been a success and it is crucial for the U.S. to continue ties with Egypt, especially during a period of political rebuilding.
Jim Erickson, a Kansas City native, lives in Egypt. He works as a political analyst for the Egyptian National Competitiveness Council, an organization that advocates for improved economic policies to create a more competitive Egyptian economy.