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Mark Caserta: America's goal shouldn't be to impose democracy

Aug. 27, 2013 @ 08:41 AM

Egypt is on fire -- literally and metaphorically.

For more than a month since the July 3 military overthrow of Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters have attacked and torched the city in retaliation.

These attacks have engendered a widespread public anger against the Brotherhood and given the military-backed government the support needed to advance its campaign against the Islamist group.

The Egyptian army insists it's not carrying out a military coup, but acting on the will of the people to clear the way for new leadership.

The chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court replacing the ousted Islamist president has suspended the nation's Islamist-backed constitution and is calling for an early presidential election.

In the meantime, hundreds of innocent people have died and scores injured in the fray.

Free elections have long been one of the aspirations of the Egyptian people. And yet while Mohamed Morsi was an elected leader, his opponents claim he's lost his legitimacy through efforts to consolidate power and impose control through the Muslim Brotherhood, exacerbating the country's problems.

Much to Israel's chagrin, the U.S. government has supported and subsidized Morsi and the Brotherhood despite their long tradition of anti-Israel/anti-Semitic sentiment. In a 2010 speech Morsi highlighted this posture as he called Jews "descendants of apes and pigs."

According to a Congressional Research Report (CRS) prepared for Congress, the Obama Administration has a "desire to engage Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's government on a host of issues including immediate economic support and Sinai security."

But the U.S. has long provided Egypt military and economic aid.

Since 1980, we've supplied Egypt's military 221 fighter jets valued at $8 billion. In January, the Obama administration sent Morsi four additional F-16 fighter jets despite claims the Egyptian military has all the F-16s it needs.

According to the CRS report, between 1948 and 2011, the United States provided Egypt with a total of $71.6 billion in foreign aid, including $1.3 billion a year in military aid from 1987 to present. For Fiscal Year 2014, President Obama is requesting an additional $1.55 billion in aid.

Now I'm not naive to the U.S. interests at stake in Egypt. Maintaining naval access to the Suez Canal, supporting the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty and promoting democracy in the region's largest Arab county are key drivers in our actions.

But I also believe in learning from history.

There are two reasons why it's incumbent upon us to immediately suspend aid to Egypt.

First, the United States doesn't have any money -- period. President Obama told us we don't even have enough to finance White House tours!

Second, we have no indication where our money goes and if indeed it finances the good guys.

Republicans and Democrats alike should take note that the military and financial aid we believe we are supplying in the interest of promoting stability in the region could soon be controlled by Islamist forces hostile to the United States and Israel.

It's time the U.S return to role-modeling democracy rather than attempting to impose it on other countries.

Mark Caserta is a Cabell County resident and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page.

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