Three Americans barred from leaving Egypt have sought refuge in the U.S. embassy in Cairo, hoping to avoid arrest in a politically charged investigation of U.S. groups promoting democracy in the Middle Eastern nation. Egypt receives $1.3 billion in military aid from the U.S. each year, and Congress has warned the generals who took over after Hosni Mubarak's downfall last year that Egypt must make progress toward democracy if they want to keep receiving money. With Egypt blatantly cracking down on the West's pro-democracy groups, is it time to stop sending the aid?
Absolutely. This behavior cannot be tolerated: "Aid to Egypt should be frozen until these Americans can leave the country," says Eliott Abrams at the Council on Foreign Relations. If we let Egypt get away with banning our democracy-promoting NGOs, "every undemocratic regime will start treating them the same way. We need to stand up for them strongly — and now."
"Embassy refuge in Egypt?"
We should keep sending aid — but not to the military: The U.S. has been sending $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Cairo since 1979 "as a kind of ransom payment" to keep the "peace with Israel," says Michael Moran at Slate. Cutting it all off cold turkey could lead to a "paranoid worst-case scenario" in which the "collapse of Egypt's economy" stokes "ugly populism." The smart thing would be converting this aid to economic assistance. The army would be "livid," but "taking it down a peg or two" is essential for establishing Egyptian democracy.
"For Egypt, aid not ransom"
Egypt's generals will relent soon enough: "The Obama administration has reacted with appropriate forcefulness to the crackdown," says the Los Angeles Times in an editorial. President Obama has reminded Egypt's military leaders that they'll lose the money if they don't make progress toward democracy, and the State Department has reiterated the warning. The generals know that if they want to keep their "close — and lucrative — ties with the United States," they must back down.
"Egypt's heavy-handed military"
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