A wide majority of National Journal's pool of national-security and foreign-policy experts said that the $1.3 billion the United States provides in annual military aid to Egypt should not be slowed simply because Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi won the presidency.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton became the highest-ranking U.S. official to meet with Morsi earlier this month, promising that the United States would support the transition to civilian government. Meanwhile, some on Capitol Hill are warily eyeing the new Islamist-led government, and some lawmakers have gone so far as to demand that the United States cut funding. But 78 percent of Insiders said this would not be the right move.
"The United States had better get used to working with the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties," one Insider said. Another added: "If we are going to be with the future in the region, we need to support that future, enthusiastically."
(RELATED: Who Are the Insiders?)
Washington "absolutely" should cut off Egypt aid if the new government takes steps that contravene important U.S. interests, one Insider said. "But taking power after winning a free election is not such a step."
If the United States wants to build a relationship based on mutual interests--and retain any leverage over the actions of Egypt's inevitably Islamist leadership--it should not begin the new relationship by ending or slowing the aid, one Insider said. "We would be shooting ourselves in the foot to slow aid based on Morsi's identity and words; carrots are essential for managing the relationship. That is different from arguing that they will prove sufficient."
Another Insider said Morsi's victory is not the issue, but rather the military council's subversion of human rights and the democratic transition. "Military aid should only be provided if the Egyptian generals yield power to a democratically elected government, and Egypt continues to advance U.S. security goals in the region," the Insider said.
Another 22 percent said the aid should be slowed, at least at first. "Egypt has more than enough military capacity to defend itself; we should develop a relationship first based upon some shared interests before we arm them more," one Insider said.
Separately, 83 percent of Insiders said putting conditions on foreign aid is an effective tool for foreign policy. "In today's deficit climate, it only makes sense to ensure that taxpayers are getting the most for their foreign assistance dollars. Outlining some parameters and metrics as conditions for the outlay of foreign aid seems to make common sense," one Insider said.
"They may not always have the desired effect, but we don't have many other coercive or punitive tools," another Insider added.
Offering money with clear and transparent conditions can be effective in giving governments incentives to change, said one Insider who called for "positive" conditionality. "Withholding money to punish a country for policies we don't like may sometimes be necessary, but it's unlikely to change behavior," the Insider said.
Another 17 percent disagreed. "Foreign aid should not be used as a stick to coerce government behavior but instead to accomplish measurable and objective developmental objectives," one Insider said.
1. Should U.S. military aid to Egypt be slowed because Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi has won the presidency?
- No 78%
- Yes 22%
"U.S. military aid should be focused and conditioned on promoting the proper role of a military in a democracy."
"U.S. aid to Egypt should be conditioned on performance, not politics. E.g., military aid on the Egyptian military's shifting to a suitable democracy, economic aid on democratic and economic reforms, and all aid on Egypt's keeping peace with Israel."
"We should not reduce assistance to the Egyptian military. It remains a stabilizing force in a country where [a] radical element may thrive. Setting aside the Muslim Brotherhood, one only has to look to Sinai to see a growing ungoverned territory."
"Until we have a cause for action, we should proceed. The exception would be of course untoward action by the military."
"If we wish to support the military as a bastion against a total takeover by the Islamists, we must continue to provide military assistance. If we abandon the military, the game is up."
"It is an instrument to influence behavior."
"What would be the reason to slow it, other than Islamophobia?"
"No reason to give up one of our remaining levers."
"Military aid should be withheld until there is an elected parliament and should be made contingent on the military significantly reducing its role in political affairs. It should not be withheld because of the individual who was democratically elected."
"But if he veers into a regressive and continuously anti-American or anti-Israel theme, then cut the funding."
"Tough call. Slowing aid or conditioning aid may make us feel like we're doing something, when in fact we may be hurting the very groups inside the country that need us: the forces of decency, democracy, and moderation. We need to use our head here, not our heart."
"The military is the secular counterweight."
"We should not take efforts that would overly destabilize the military until we learn more about the intent of the Morsi administration. A wait-and-see approach would be prudent, but it should not look like a threat, rather an evaluation period where the United States can work with the Morsi administration to identify what control he will actually have over the military and what he plans to do with that control."
"Egypt has more than enough military capacity to defend itself; we should develop a relationship first based upon some shared interests before we arm them more."
2. Is putting conditions on foreign aid an effective tool for foreign policy?
- Yes 83%
- No 17%
"This depends on the type of aid. Humanitarian aid, I'd say no. Military or security assistance, absolutely."
"Yes as long as only we know the conditions."
"U.S. aid should come with some strings attached--ensuring aid helps the people intended and ensuring nations make progress in areas of universal rights. Unfortunately, often too many conditions are imposed, negating the good will the smart power was intended to garner."
"We're usually talking about such measly amounts that the leverage is only marginal. But in the Egyptian case, we have more money in the bank to work with."
"It is one of several factors that can be effective. It is no panacea."
"But must be done in a respectful way that doesn't insult the recipient or cause them to lose face, especially a new administration fighting for legitimacy."
"But conditions should be based on actual behavior rather than affiliation."
"Positive conditionality--that is, offering money with clear and transparent conditions--can be effective in giving governments incentives to change. Withholding money to punish a country for policies we don't like may sometimes be necessary, but it's unlikely to change behavior."
"It can be--if the conditions are realistic, measurable, and supported by the poor in the countries we're targeting. Conditions that ensure that aid goes to the people, not the government; to democracy, not tyranny; and which increase transparency and accountability, can be very good."
"Foreign aid should not be used as a stick to coerce government behavior but instead to accomplish measurable and objective developmental objectives."
National Journal’s National Security Insiders Poll is a periodic survey of defense and foreign-policy experts.
Gordon Adams, Charles Allen, Thad Allen, James Bamford, David Barno, Milt Bearden, Peter Bergen, Samuel “Sandy” Berger, David Berteau, Stephen Biddle, Nancy Birdsall, Kit Bond, Stuart Bowen, Paula Broadwell, Mike Breen, Steven Bucci, Nicholas Burns, Dan Byman, James Jay Carafano, Phillip Carter, Wendy Chamberlin, Michael Chertoff, Frank Cilluffo, James Clad, Richard Clarke, Steve Clemons, Joseph Collins, William Courtney, Roger Cressey, Gregory Dahlberg, Robert Danin, Richard Danzig, Paul Eaton, Andrew Exum, William Fallon, Eric Farnsworth, Jacques Gansler, Stephen Ganyard, Daniel Goure, Mike Green, Mark Gunzinger, Jim Harper, Michael Hayden, Pete Hoekstra, Bruce Hoffman, Paul Hughes, Colin Kahl, Donald Kerrick, Rachel Kleinfeld, Lawrence Korb, David Kramer, Andrew Krepinevich, Charlie Kupchan, W. Patrick Lang, Cedric Leighton, James Lindsay, Trent Lott, Peter Mansoor, Brian McCaffrey, Steven Metz, Franklin Miller, Philip Mudd, John Nagl, Shuja Nawaz, Kevin Nealer, Michael Oates, Thomas Pickering, Paul Pillar, Stephen Rademaker, Marc Raimondi, Celina Realuyo, Bruce Riedel, Barry Rhoads, Marc Rotenberg, Kori Schake, Mark Schneider, John Scofield, Tammy Schultz, Stephen Sestanovich, Sarah Sewall, Matthew Sherman, Jennifer Sims, Constanze Stelzenmüller, Frances Townsend, Mick Trainor, Suzanne Spaulding, Ted Stroup, Tamara Wittes, and Dov Zakheim.
This article appears in the July 24, 2012, edition of NJ Daily.