President Obama’s decision to reduce but not terminate military aid to Egypt is a measured attempt to protect American interests in a tumultuous region while affirming the president’s support for democracy. One message is that the relationship between the two countries remains crucial to regional stability. The other is that America cannot sit by while the Egyptian Army tramples on Egypt’s political opposition, foments violence and turns increasingly authoritarian, thus ensuring further turmoil.
Whether partial measures will be a sufficient warning to the generals is unclear, especially now that senior American officials have said the decision to reduce aid is “not meant to be permanent.” But if the military insists on its repressive path, Mr. Obama will have to go further.
At least for now, the generals, who have benefited most from the aid that has flowed to Egypt since the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, will be deprived of some of their favorite military toys. The big-ticket items to be delayed include Apache helicopters, Harpoon missiles, M1-A1 tank parts and F-16 warplanes, as well as $260 million earmarked for the general Egyptian budget. Joint military exercises had already been canceled.
However, money for Egyptian counterterrorism programs and for efforts to protect Egypt’s borders and secure Sinai, where the army is engaged in a crackdown on Islamic militants, will continue. So will funding for education, health care and business-development programs that directly improve the lives of the Egyptian people. The delivery of spare parts for many of the American-supplied weapons in Egypt’s arsenal will not be interrupted.
After acquiescing in the coup in July against Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, the United States has criticized the alarming moves toward a military-police state by the generals and the civilian government they installed, but it has been slow to take concrete steps to protest these moves. The moves include the ruthless suppression of Muslim Brotherhood allies, a nationwide state of emergency and the rounding up of other dissenters — all on top of the crackdown on demonstrators after the coup, which killed more than 1,000 people.
Most Egyptians did not envision that kind of country when they threw out Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and elected Mr. Morsi. Mr. Obama did not speak out forcefully enough when Mr. Morsi himself veered off course by pushing through a deeply polarizing constitution asserting near-dictatorial powers. That was in part because Mr. Obama had vowed to work with an elected government and in part because the United States did not want to risk a highly valued security relationship that preserves the peace with Israel, keeps the Suez Canal accessible and ensures counterterrorism cooperation.
But such security cooperation by itself is not enough to guarantee security in Egypt or the region. Mr. Obama must not make the same mistake with the generals, whose repression and intolerance will only bring more instability while destroying the goals of democracy and freedom, jobs and education that inspired the revolution in 2011.
Published: October 11, 2013
Taken from : http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/12/opinion/a-warning-to-egypts-generals.html?adxnnl=1&src=recg&adxnnlx=1382098384-fkVTySaFyOGVb5zXqmFt2Q