how U.S. foreign policy worked in Egypt and what that means for Pakistan

Recent events have caused many Americans to question why their government sends billions of dollars in aid every year to Pakistan, a country that seems less than keen on helping root out terrorists. An answer can be found in the Egyptian revolution.

The United States has a well established military-to-military relationship with Egypt. Much of American aid to Egypt has gone directly to its military. Egyptian officers have often attended U.S. military schools. Personal relationships between American and Egyptian officers have been created at these schools and have been fostered through regular collaboration on training and intelligence. Although the U.S. received political benefits as a result of sending the aid money (particularly adherence to the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel and related cooperation), the military connection arguably turned out to be the more beneficial aspect of the relationship for the U.S.

When protests began in Egypt, America took the position that violence should not be used, but the Mubarak regime ordered the protesters to be forcefully dispersed. The police moved in, and a battle raged off and on for about a week between the protesters and police. The protesters won. At that point, it was clear that only the military could break up the protests. However, the military officers were in constant contact with their American counterparts. The Americans encouraged them to remain neutral and allow the protests to proceed. When it began to appear that Mubarak had lost legitimacy, the Americans began pushing the military to nudge him out of office and take over the country to maintain order.

In short, American foreign policy in Egypt worked perfectly. The policy was never to keep Mubarak in power. The policy was to keep Mubarak working with the U.S. as long as he was in power while developing the ability to prevent an anti-U.S. regime from taking hold in the event of a revolt. One could call this the “Anything But Iran Policy.” When the protests became serious, the U.S. judged that they were not primarily anti-American in nature. Thus, the best way for the U.S. to prevent an anti-American regime from taking power was to distance itself from Mubarak, nudge him out of power and convince the Egyptian military to maintain stability until elections could take place and a new constitution could be written.

Broadly speaking, U.S. foreign policy in Pakistan is similar. The U.S. gives significant amounts of aid directly to the military. If there were a revolution in Pakistan, there would be a danger of an anti-American regime taking over. So, while aid does not buy Pakistan’s compliance with all of America’s desires, it does buy a degree of influence over the military, which could prove invaluable in a crisis, as it did in Egypt.

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4 Responses to how U.S. foreign policy worked in Egypt and what that means for Pakistan

  1. Pingback: Blogs about Egypt « kingofbakislami

  2. villagebear says:

  3. demark! says:

    That’s most certainly how things are working here in central Africa (and honestly, pretty much throughout Africa). We give money to everything and everybody, but only in really substantial amounts for two things: military assistance and health projects (and increasingly, environmental protection). We’re working on a funding list of all of our programs here in Congo right now and we almost took military assistance off the list because it dwarfs everything else by about 10:1. I would agree that some of this is strategic, but most of it is because apparently that’s what you (the American public) want. We have such an amazingly gigantic military budget that the military doesn’t know what to do with it except give it away. Meanwhile, other diplomatic efforts (because mil assistance is a form of diplomacy) like public affairs (e.g. building schools, bringing in American bands, hosting English clubs) have almost no money alotted to them. So basically, if the American public wants diplomacy, they apparently want it via the military because that’s all their elected officials are financing. Thus, it might not be so much a “strategic” decision as a “de facto” one…

  4. Suszek says:

    Well, I did not say that a heavy reliance on military aid is the ideal foreign policy for every country in the world. I didn’t even say that it was the ideal policy in Pakistan. I think that an underlying premise of my post was that such a policy is highly questionable. However, despite that, the policy did seem to work pretty well in Egypt in February, and it could have the same effectiveness in Pakistan in a crisis. However, I would stop well short of endorsing that strategy as the central portion of our foreign policy in Pakistan, and I certainly wouldn’t endorse it across the board.

    I would agree that what people have deemed “soft” diplomacy is often more effective than military assistance. However, its proponents have difficulty winning support for it because they can never sufficiently answer one question: “If my kid goes to a school that is falling apart, why should my tax dollars go toward building a new school in Congo?”

    There may be a good answer to that question, but, if so, it is at least 100 words long. There would need to be a 20-word answer to win over the public.

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