Prominent commentators, including Leslie Gelb, John Bolton and Bret Stephens, are counseling the Obama administration to swallow its qualms about the
This argument has some plausibility. There is no doubt that the United States derives strategic benefits from our alliance with Egypt's generals — namely the upholding of the Camp David accords, transit rights in the
Those costs should be brought home by the Somoza analogy: Years of support for Somoza's tyranny resulted in a 1979 revolution led by the anti-American Sandinistas. There is good cause to fear similar blowback in Egypt. Even if the military succeeds in consolidating power and temporarily crushing the Brotherhood, as it is likely to do in the short term, it is sowing long-term seeds of hatred.
It is no coincidence that both Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri hailed from U.S.-allied nations that repressed their own citizens. Both men were drawn to the conclusion that the way to free their homelands was to attack their rulers' patron. It is reasonable to expect that a new generation of Islamists in Egypt, now being taught that the peaceful path to power is no longer open, will turn to violence and that, as long as Washington is seen on the side of the generals, some of their violence will be directed our way.
Paradoxically, the generals, despite their covert cooperation with the United States, encourage this very outcome by demonizing the United States (and Israel) in their internal propaganda. This was a pattern long exhibited by Egypt's ousted president,
The generals are also doing their best to demonize the brief period of rule by ousted President
One could argue that this was because Morsi didn't have full control of the state; even during his presidency, the Egyptian army retained a large measure of autonomy. That may be true, but, if so, it only shows why the coup and the current crackdown are so unnecessary: There were already de facto limits on Morsi's power.
Now there is no counterbalance to the military, and the gloves are off. The army appears to be bent on crushing the Brotherhood by force. If it could accomplish this, I might be prepared to applaud. But I doubt the army can succeed in destroying a popular mass movement. The more likely outcome is continuing violence and instability — and fresh threats to American interests.
How should Washington react? I am under no illusion that cutting off $1.3 billion a year in annual