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Aid to Egypt: Realism over idealism

Some in Washington, including U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, have responded to Egypt's crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood by insisting that the United States suspend aid to that country. That would be a blunder.

Ayotte says that Egypt's military rulers have ignored our advice while taking our money. If we suspend our aid, maybe they will start to take us — and our entreaties to move quickly to restore an elected government — more seriously.

The United States gives Egypt $1.5 billion a year in aid (less than we spend on Job Corps; see editorial below. Since the army ousted President Mohammed Morsi last month, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE have given Egypt $12 billion to ensure that Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood is kept out of power. Our small amount of aid has been replaced (though our weapons and parts cannot be replaced so easily, which Ayotte thinks gives us considerable leverage).

By the way, Israel supports the Egyptian army's efforts to marginalize the Brotherhood, saying it helps in the fight against terror.

Egypt is not a nation that will become a tolerant, liberal republic if only free elections are held. It is a nation in which factions are fighting to see which one gets to impose its views on everyone else. Easing the Muslim Brotherhood's path back to power is not in our best interests. That is the likely result of suspending aid on the condition that the military take its hands off the Brotherhood and rush to hold new elections.

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