Egypt and how we spend our foreign aid

The outcome in Egypt is still far from clear, but it is becoming clearer by the day that Hosni Mubarak will not make it to the 30th anniversary of his assuming the presidency, in October. Most likely, Mubarak is down to two choices: Hang on until elections scheduled for September, or leave power soon in the hands of a military-backed transitional government.

Both choices suggest that the Egyptian military will be the ultimate arbiter, and that a true Egyptian democracy is still years away. Neither choice speaks to the fulfillment of the desires of the tens of thousands of Egyptians who have stood their ground on streets where aspirations of freedom have died many times before.

The emerging consensus candidate, Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, appears a lackluster prospect. ElBaradei was at best ineffectual, and at worst feckless, as the international community’s chief liaison for a time with nuke-hungry Iran. It is no comfort that he received a Nobel Peace Prize for his fruitless efforts. I have a hard time imagining such a man conjuring the strength, wisdom and will to shepherd a nation in open revolt into a stable, peaceful democracy.

Then again, who — in a country where real political power has been held so tightly for more than a generation — could be a serious candidate to act as such a shepherd?

There may be many reasons why the situation is so grim. But for the part of Americans, via our government, one lesson is clear. The time for demanding real change and reforms in a country such as Egypt with a regime such as Mubarak’s, into which we have poured tens of billions of dollars, is not when the people have finally taken to the streets and defied the tanks.

The time is much earlier — before the strongman loses has the authority to enact such reforms, but also before our threats to cut off foreign aid amount to little more than a final nail in the regime’s coffin.

Whether or not we should still spend billions and billions each year in such aid will be part of the conversation as we decide how to get our own fiscal house in order. But this should be a red line: No more aid for undemocratic rulers who aren’t moving their people toward greater liberty.

78 comments Add your comment

Jefferson

January 31st, 2011
9:45 am

Democracy is great unless they elect a bunch folks you don’t like.

Road Scholar

January 31st, 2011
9:57 am

“The emerging consensus candidate, Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, appears a lackluster prospect.”

I believe that the Egyptians will make that decision! As to spending our foreign aid, where is that in your article?

CJ

January 31st, 2011
9:57 am

Kyle, “No more aid for undemocratic rulers who aren’t moving their people toward greater liberty.

With regard to foreign aid, Steven Benen wrote–

“Last week, Gallup asked respondents to say whether they ‘favor or oppose cutting government spending’ in a variety of areas. A majority opposed cuts to everything — literally, everything — except foreign aid…

As for foreign aid — the only area of the budget both Democrats and Republicans are willing to cut — it’s worth emphasizing that most Americans vastly overstate how much we currently spend in this area. Recent research from the Program on International Policy Attitudes found that the public thinks roughly 25% of the budget goes to foreign aid, while the truth is about 1%.”

My recollection is that compared with other industrialized countries, we don’t give that much (measured as a percentage of GDP). As a result, as Kyle suggests, we need to be extremely picky about how we distribute such money.

That said, I suspect the decisions should be a little more complex than determining whether to help people based on a form of government that we don’t like. In some cases, an argument can be made that such aid can assist in moving people living under a dictatorship toward greater liberty.

CJ

January 31st, 2011
9:58 am

carlosgvv

January 31st, 2011
9:59 am

“get our own fiscal house in order”

Our fiscal house is a long way from being in order. There are so many areas of our society that need immediate funding. So, why are we spending billions of dollars in foreing aid for Egypt and many other countries?

Here Spot

January 31st, 2011
10:17 am

Drastically reduce all foreign aid to all Countrys. ElBaradei is a joke and court jester yet would fit right in the ObaManure adminstration.

These Egypt Islambs need to get a handle on things and quickly as Im tired of seeing my stock market profits dwindle and the price of Petro increasing.

jconservative

January 31st, 2011
10:20 am

“The time for demanding real change and reforms in a country such as Egypt with a regime such as Mubarak’s, into which we have poured tens of billions of dollars, is not when the people have finally taken to the streets and defied the tanks.”

True. But!

Do you do this in a public forum and risk creating an anti American fervor among the nationalistic population? Or do you do this on the quiet behind closed doors? History has examples of both. And history does not provide a final verdict.

The Egyptian aid, and some Israeli aid, is part of the treaty between Israel and Egypt that the US brokered. Cost of doing business – in this case the business is the treaty. Six straight US presidents have endorsed this treaty and its terms.

Most observers would agree that the 30 plus years of relative peace between Egypt and Israel as been worth the money.

Will it come back to bite us in the butt? Very possible.

Since the start of WW II the basic cornerstone of US foreign policy has been reward our “friends & supporters”. And Kyle is correct, we may need to re-address this. As we look at US spending and deal with a massive debt, the role of the US in world affairs may need to change.

The days of a Trillion dollar bill & thousands of American lives to “nation build” should be ending soon.

I look forward to the debate.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

January 31st, 2011
10:21 am

Tough love essay, Mr. Wingfield. Are you certain you want to apply the Wingfield doctrine to Pakistan?

Kyle Wingfield

January 31st, 2011
10:27 am

Road: Um, the last three paragraphs?

Ragnar: I think, and jconservative speaks to some of this, the administration has to have the wisdom to know when and how much to push the pedal versus the brake. Diplomacy is an art, and I wouldn’t favor a tick-box approach to foreign aid (i.e., $XXX aid for reform package A, $YYY for reform package B).

But surely there was some time between Oct. 14, 1981 and Jan. 25, 2011, when we could have applied more brake and helped to foster a better situation. And the same would go for Pakistan in the Musharraf and earlier eras.

Lee Weber

January 31st, 2011
10:30 am

Kyle, while I admire your sentiment of not supporting undemocratic leaders, I fear it is not a wise policy to implement at this point in time. Although we no longer live in a bi-polar world, there remain significant foreign policy objectives that can be accomplished by use of both the carrot (foreign aid) and the stick (back channel pressure on undemocratic leaders.)

I think Jeanne Kirkpatrick had it right when she put forth what came to be known as the “Kirkpatrick Doctrine.” It is logical and reasonable to support authoritarian regimes (c.f., Egypt) but not totalitarian ones (c.f., China.) In many cases authoritarian regimes are the only possible system of government for some nations due to reasons we can all easily recognize. Judicious use of aid and pressure can eventually change these regimes (see The Philippines as an a example.)

Withdrawing all aid leaves a vacuum into which our enemies often step. China has embarked on a all out push in Africa, largely through massive foreign aid and advantageous economic and trade deals. We cannot allow this situation to occur without there eventually being a serious problem.

I also like the “Derbyshire Doctrine.” When it comes to to Third World nations…”Bomb ‘em, bribe’em or leave ‘em alone.”

Egypt and too many nations are ones for which “bribe ‘em” seems to be the wisest course. It might also eventually be the way to go in Afghanistan if things don’t change there in the next twelve to eighteen months.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

January 31st, 2011
10:36 am

Dear Kyle @ 10:27, I’ll buy that. Maybe ought to change that “red line” to a yellow one. (Wait, that has a snarky connotation – what’s not green and not yellow? Some other color.)

Kyle Wingfield

January 31st, 2011
10:51 am

Ragnar @ 10:36: I think the operative word, in terms of diplomacy being an art, is not “red” but “moving.” That’s where the judgment — how far, how fast, how steady, is far/fast/steady enough? — would have to come in.

That’s not meant to undermine the sentiment, only to recognize that, as you and others suggest, these matters unfold on an inexact time line, and not at Washington’s choosing.

Mel

January 31st, 2011
11:00 am

The billions in foreign aid to Israel and Egypt, the two largest recipients of such, are in return for their signing and continuing to enforce the terms of the Camp David Accords. We’re basically paying these two countries not to go to war again. IF they did, oil prices would go through the roof, the Suez Canal would become a battleground again and the conflict would likely spread throughout the region, forcing leaders everywhere to take sides. It’s money for peace or at least the absence of war.

myother

January 31st, 2011
11:02 am

It’s not aid, it’s brib money.

Jefferson

January 31st, 2011
11:02 am

You can always count on a republican to monitize all situations.

ronald

January 31st, 2011
11:19 am

“We’re basically paying these two countries not to go to war again. IF they did, oil prices would go through the roof, the Suez Canal would become a battleground again and the conflict would likely spread throughout the region, forcing leaders everywhere to take sides. It’s money for peace or at least the absence of war.”

Mel- Great argument for drilling at ANWAR. I agree..

ronald

January 31st, 2011
11:22 am

“But this should be a red line: No more aid for undemocratic rulers who aren’t moving their people toward greater liberty.”

Well said, Kyle. I agree with you. The American people are mostly unaware of the reasons that we pour billions into these countries. Its time that we apply some standards to these expenditures. The lack of real results must continue to raise the question of why we’re sending $ there to begin with. With fiscal issues now taking centerstage in the US, its as good a time as any to fight back against these questionable/controversial expenditures.

Rufus

January 31st, 2011
11:25 am

So ElBaradei has the same credentials as Obama, peace prize and all.

newkid

January 31st, 2011
11:43 am

Super high stakes situation. How many days will it take before ‘planners’ organize and insert agents provocateur to turn this thing in a ‘favorable’ direction. Even money says not more than two days after departure of 90% of ex-pats.

Peter

January 31st, 2011
11:46 am

Well the Republican’s have shown….. foreign Aid is invading other countries for Oil Kyle.

joe

January 31st, 2011
11:51 am

With our astronomical debt piling up more and more every day, seems we should cut these payments to foreign governments until we get our own house in order…then, we can resume these payments to make the world a better, safer place…spreading democracy where ever possible.

Here Spot

January 31st, 2011
12:00 pm

And Peter did you ride you bicycle today? Have you had your electricity turned off, cancelled your cable subscription, started growing your own vegetables?

Cmon Sport…put your money where that big piehole is.

Sam

January 31st, 2011
12:14 pm

The economic aid to Egypt we all keep talking about equals 25 cents per month for every Egyptian for a total of around 3$/year (on a good year). This is not aid, it’s blood money and I’m sure both Egyptians and Americans would love to see it go. All our Foreign aid goes to Israel or for dictators protecting Israel. I’d love to see this 1% of our budget going to Detroit and not to Tel Aviv.
http://www.vaughns-1-pagers.com/politics/us-foreign-aid.htm

DawgDad

January 31st, 2011
12:17 pm

I heard reports we give Egypt $1.5B per year, of which $1.3B goes to the military. It’s clearly not humanitarian aid; it’s meant to keep the canal open and Egypt’s army away from Israel’s border.

While we all likely view a responsible democracy as an “ideal” outcome, that would appear to be the LEAST likely outcome. Masses of people living on $2/day are going to be susceptible to authoritarian rulers until they generate more economic freedom and independence. There are a LOT of bad characters in that part of the world, and Egypt was a breeding ground for Al Queda doctrine (read “The Looming Tower”, or read up on late 20th century Egyptian history). As we’ve seen the Muslim extremists can take over when only a small portion of the population supports them. With the Suez canal in play, that would likely mean a shooting war capable of expanding to multiple fronts.

While I sympathize with the Egyptian people it is NOT the responsibility of the United States to sort out their internal political affairs. It is highly refreshing to see them stand up for themselves, and to see it play out relatively peacefully so far, given the circumstances. Let’s all hope they have enormous backbone and resolve to fend off something far worse than Mubarek’s regime.

Moonbat Patrol

January 31st, 2011
12:23 pm

So, bed wetting liberals protest a Conservative meet in California and many get arrested – 25 to be exact.What were these left wingnuts wetting themselves over? Koch funding for certain causes, especially funding against the fascist global warming bullcrap laws the left wants to push through. But these are the same moonbats who have no problem with billionaire George Hedgefund Soros being involved with and funding liberal/Dem causes. Has anyone ever seen Conservatives angrily protest a Soros event? ANY liberal/Dem event for that matter and getting arrested? Didn’t think so. Foolish hypocrites. The entire lot of them. They can have their funding gurus but Conservatives cannot? It doesn’t work that way.

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Authorities in California say 25 protesters have been arrested for trespassing outside a strategy session of conservative political donors at a Palm Springs-area resort.

Riverside County Deputy Melissa Nieburger (NEE’-bur-gur) said Sunday that the protesters were being booked at Indio Jail and released.Hundreds of people participated in the mostly peaceful demonstration that had been arranged with authorities, but some protesters crossed the street to the Rancho Las Palmas Resort.

Deputies in riot gear arrested them without incident when they refused to leave the area. Sunday was the second day of the four-day conclave. It was organized by brothers David and Charles Koch, who have funded the fight against global warming laws and have financial ties to tea party groups.

DawgDad

January 31st, 2011
12:26 pm

joe: Might need to focus on cutting off the culture of corruption here at home first. Foreign aid typically buys something; influence, calm, favors, whatever. Obamacare is generating what, THOUSANDS of waivers, each no doubt bought and paid for with political favors or capital. It’s all business as usual, foreign or domestic.

ronald

January 31st, 2011
12:28 pm

” heard reports we give Egypt $1.5B per year, of which $1.3B goes to the military.”

DawgDad- CNN reported Saturday that, based on data from the State Dept, annual aid to Egypt is near $25bn per year. I’m not sure where you’re $1.5bn # came from.

Kunfoosed

January 31st, 2011
12:39 pm

Why don’t we just invade Egypt and overthrow their evil dictator? It worked very well for us in Iraq and now they’re a purple-thumbed, democratic society thanks to our Great Leader George W. Bush.

I heard whispers that Egypt might even be hiding weapons of mass destruction somewhere north or west of the Great Pyramid.

Linda

January 31st, 2011
12:49 pm

Rufus @ 11:25, I was unaware that ElBaradei was a community organizer.

MrLiberty

January 31st, 2011
12:51 pm

Democracies are hard to control. That is why our government supports dictators.

Folks like Cynthia lull themselves to sleep at night thinking the money our government steals from the citizens and gives to foreign leaders actually benefits the people of the country. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our money goes to prop up dictator after dictator on the false and misguided belief that only through payoffs can we possibly foster economic trade, etc. with the nation. Of course the truth is that every nation wishes to trade and bring in profits for its citizens but too many business people in our country do not wish to compete freely with others for that business. They would rather pay off congressman to pull strings to prop up dictators with money that they goes to buy products from these businesses. Wonderful products like bullets, guns, missles, planes, etc. to oppress and kill their citizens with.

There should not be a discussion about future foreign aid. It should ALL BE ENDED.

It is said that Foreign Aid is the taking of money from poor people in rich countries to give to rich people in poor countries.

Idiots on both sides of the aisle seem to kid themselves into believing otherwise.

Bill Campbell

January 31st, 2011
12:52 pm

There should be no foreign aid! The money should go to Social Security, Medicare and aid to the homeless and poor! Nothing for illegals!

Kunfoosed

January 31st, 2011
12:52 pm

And Linda, I was unaware that ElBaradei was a former U.S. Senator.

DawgDad

January 31st, 2011
12:53 pm

ronald: I don’t remember either. I could easily be wrong on the figures, but I did hear reports most of the aid goes to the Egyptian military. If that is incorrect I’d really like to understand what’s really happenning.

Tom

January 31st, 2011
12:54 pm

Just saw an article in today’s paper that pissed me off bad!! Hilliary Clinton said aid to Haiti will continue! How many billions are we giving to Haiti, Egypt, Mexico, Africa, and countless others? How can we continue to do this while American citizens are losing their homes and jobs? We are at 10% unemployment, it should be all about JOBS, JOBS, JOBS for our citizens before reaching out to help others. Bill Clinton should get his butt out of Haiti and put his efforts towards our citizens. I’m so sick and tired of these millionaire politicans and actors trying to save the people in other countries when our citizens need to be placed first. I’m retired but still being taxed, I want it to go to help our citizens not some 3rd world country!!

MrLiberty

January 31st, 2011
12:55 pm

And as for Mr. Baradei, I seem to remember him saying in no uncertain terms that IRAQ had no WMD’s but was ignored by the war criminal who used to infest the white house. Even our own intelligence services confirmed this and they continue to say the same about IRAN.

I guess when all you can do is lust for war and the killing of millions of innocent Iranians, you will believe anything, including lies about a supposed weapons program in Iran. Just how many Iranians and US soldiers will have to die before we occupy that country and discover that he was right on this one too?????

ronald

January 31st, 2011
1:01 pm

“It is said that Foreign Aid is the taking of money from poor people in rich countries to give to rich people in poor countries. ”

MrLiberty- Don’t get confused about who is paying for what. Foreign Aid is the taking of money from RICH people in our country and paying to RICH people in poor countries. Don’t forget who pays the bulk of federal taxes in this country and how wealthy Americans disproportionately foot the bill for almost everything.

@@

January 31st, 2011
1:02 pm

I heard someone suggest the only aid we should send Egypt right now is the amount necessary to pay the generals’ salaries….withholding anything over and above. Guarantee that and I think you’d see Mubarak’s exit.

Linda

January 31st, 2011
1:27 pm

Isn’t it ironic that at the same time that the O adm. was advising Mubarak to turn Egypt’s internet back on, that the O adm. is trying to turn ours off?

Isn’t it ironic that at the same time that Mubarak was turning off Al Jazera, Fair & Balanced, the O adm. is trying to turn off Fox News, Fair & Balanced?

Peter

January 31st, 2011
1:37 pm

Here Spot….you are a true Republican…Killing for Oil is a Family Value !

q1

January 31st, 2011
1:39 pm

Yes , we should, should what? Continue sending mountains of money to Egypt. Then Egypt can continue to pretend they are close friends of the U.S. Better yet, have Georgia send the money and then Egypt can redirect oil carriers to The new deep water port of Savannah. Hey, money will always come from someplace, that is a given.

ronald

January 31st, 2011
1:46 pm

“then Egypt can redirect oil carriers to The new deep water port of Savannah”

No, that Savannah port is only for the foreign auto makers to deliver parts and supplies etc. to their manufacturing facilities in TENNESSEE, ALABAMA, and SOUTH CAROLINA.

Here Spot

January 31st, 2011
1:53 pm

I repeat…

And Peter did you ride you bicycle today? Have you had your electricity turned off, cancelled your cable subscription, started growing your own vegetables?

Well?

AmVet

January 31st, 2011
2:18 pm

No more aid for undemocratic rulers who aren’t moving their people toward greater liberty.

Kudos, Kyle! (Though quasi-heretical and the very antithesis of foreign policy under Sir Ronald Reagan…)

carlosgvv

January 31st, 2011
2:23 pm

Bill Campbell

You are absolutely correct. And, because that makes so much sense, you may be sure our government will never do it.

ronald

January 31st, 2011
2:29 pm

Maybe if Maxine Waters and John Lewis can convince the CBC that foreign aid is disproportionately damaging to African-Americans, then Obama will pay attention.

Peter

January 31st, 2011
2:55 pm

Here Spot …..So those are your reason’s you agree with Bush…………….. as he ” Prayed to His God “…before invading Iraq ?

Blood for Oil makes sense to you ?

Churchill's MOM

January 31st, 2011
3:01 pm

I have said it before and will say it again.. The ONLY way for peace in the middle east is to end ALL Foreign Aid. As Senator Paul says, the $6 Billion we send to Egypt, Israel and Jordon is counter productive.

BADA BING

January 31st, 2011
3:16 pm

I am kinda enjoying all those tanks we paid for going to some use in Cairo.

Question Authority

January 31st, 2011
3:16 pm

ronald – While I certainly wouldn’t argue with your point if we were only talking about the income tax, the truth is that inflation, the hidden tax, hurts those with lower incomes and savers way more than it hurts the rich. Not that I am attempting to make any socialist or class warfare point. The button that I have sitting in my drawer has the saying on it that I quoted. Between tarriffs, sweetheart deals, inflation, and the like, the rich in our contry benefit WAY MORE than the poor or the middle class when it comes to foreign aid to rich people in poor countries.

Question Authority

January 31st, 2011
3:18 pm

Our foreign aid paid for the tear gas canisters that say MADE IN AMERICA on them and the protestors know it. It is just the american citizen who doesn’t fully realize all the horrors our tax dollars have paid for and why they really hate us in the middle east (hint, its not because of our freedoms).