No Harpoons for Egypt (Part III, Show me the Money)

Egypt is crying poverty. Tourism is down by 60% and its FY00 trade deficit was $9.35 billion.

Egypt is crying poverty. Tourism is down by 60% and its FY00 trade deficit was $9.35 billion. Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said this week, “We have been suffering from these fall outs of the terrorist acts that took place in the United States, and we are asking our American friends to help us – not by new money, but by showing flexibility in the way our economic cooperation goes.”

Secretary Powell responded, “We are looking at ways that we can accelerate some of our economic cooperation – we want to be as responsive as we can.”

So, Congress, help them.

Help Egypt by slashing the military part of its Foreign Aid appropriation. Help by not paying for MLRS and Harpoon II for a country that has no external enemy and belongs to no military alliance. Help by not driving Egypt deeper into that hole. Show the flexibility that Mr. Maher asked for by putting the $1.2 billion we currently let Egypt spend on weapons into a civilian account. Help Secretary Powell.

The benefits are multiple.

First, Congress would be precisely responsive to the Egyptian Foreign Minister’s request for flexibility and economic assistance. And precisely responsive to Secretary Powell.

Second, it would eliminate destabilizing new arms sales that will surely set off a request by Israel for corresponding capabilities. Congress can better protect Israel’s position by not selling the offensive equipment in the first place. [The idea that Egypt would use the Harpoon to protect the Suez Canal is a bad joke. Harpoon is not a counter-terror weapon, and if a serious foreign naval power invades the Canal it will be the United States, not Egypt, that defends it.]

Third, it will help break the cycle of despotic Third World leaders paying off their military leadership at the expense of economic reforms that would help the civilian population. This would, in turn, help break the cycle of poverty, radicalism and internal strife that constitutes the real threat faced by the Egyptian government.

Fourth, following from the third point, if the Egyptian government is threatened by internal insurrection, which it is, the US bears some responsibility because we blindly pay for the militaristic and aggressive choices made by the Mubarak dictatorship. And it follows then that some of the anti-American sentiment rampant in Egypt is justified by our arms sales policy. Congress can help stabilize the Middle East, help Egypt economically and begin to restore the integrity of American Foreign Aid in one step. There is no excuse for not taking that step.