Why Obama’s So Weak on Egypt

An object lesson in the military-industrial complex, or the importance of knowing your Eisenhower.

In his farewell address to America, President Dwight Eisenhower, one of our greatest military minds, warned against the rising influence of a powerful force in our country, a force he called “the military-industrial complex.”

That was in 1961. In 2013 the full power of the complex is exposed on the streets of Cairo and in the inability of our government to do anything about it.

President Barack Obama spoke like a man whose hands are tied when he delivered a rambling speech, thin on content and thick with context, to address the fighting in Egypt. He said America “strongly condemns” the actions of the interim Egyptian government and deplores “violence against civilians,” violence that has killed hundreds.

So what are we going to do about it? “As a result,” the President continued, “this morning we notified the Egyptian government that we are canceling our biannual joint military exercise.”

That’s it?

After a military coup, martial law and slaughter on the streets, we respond by canceling a play date?

What about the $1.5 billion in military aid that we give to Egypt every year? If we “strongly condemn” and “deplore” the killing of civilians, maybe we should stop paying for the guns and ammunition used to kill.

This is just the latest chapter in a long history of American hypocrisy in Egypt. We had an unholy pact with dictator Hosni Mubarak for decades. America would provide him money to build a powerful military and Mubarak would leave Israel alone. Mubarak then used his American-fueled military power to rule Egypt with an iron fist.

When the people of Egypt took to the streets in 2011 to demand democracy, America dropped Mubarak like we didn’t know him, like we hadn’t been his partner in crime for a couple of dozen years. Democracy at all costs was the order of the day.

Except democracy delivered Mohammed Morsi, a president we didn’t much like. The Egyptian army we paid for, Mubarak’s army, promptly removed Morsi in a military coup.

Except the American government won’t call it a coup because by law we would then have to cut off all foreign aid to Egypt, so we call it “growing pains.” Perhaps we’ll put Robin Thicke in as the next president.

Now that the Egyptian military is in charge, soldiers are killing those who would dare protest that their president was forcibly removed from office without due process. This is exactly the kind of thuggery that America is supposed to abhor and yet we continue to give the thugs money. Why?

Because when our government gives Egypt money to buy military hardware, the unwritten rule is that Egypt will buy American. It is international money laundering, the way politicians can funnel money to defense contractors in return for campaign contributions and other favors. And that, boys and girls, is how the military-industrial complex works.

President Obama spent 90 percent of his emergency speech on Egypt talking about the long relationship with the Egyptian government and its people. The speech was crafted to convey to the American public a complex international relationship that makes knee jerk reactions to crisis difficult if not impossible.

What was left unsaid, but understood, is that it is not the relationship with Egypt that is leaving America impotent in response, but the relationship President Eisenhower warned of over 50 years ago.