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Strategic hypocrisy?

August 24, 2017

One of the promises President Trump made on Monday was that the USA was out of the business of nation-building. He reiterated that in his Afghanistan address to the nation, reassuring the government and the people of that country that we would not try to tell them how to live their lives, or try to set up a satellite democracy.

So where did this excuse for withholding $300 billion in aid from Egypt on the basis of human rights violations come from? Much less holding it in “escrow” until Egypt meets certain preconditions related to women’s rights, etc.

Well, for starters, from two Republicans upset because Egypt essentially banned NGOs from working on civic issues within Egypt.

Granted, from a Western point of view, Egypt fails miserably on several fronts to match up to our standards for human rights. It is quite all right to decry that medieval viewpoint.

And few would deny that far too many taxpayer dollars have gone to a country that uses it in part to aid groups that sponsor terrorism against our country.

That said, what is nation-building, if it is not forcing another country to accept our values, in this case via what is essentially blackmail. You can educate about human rights,  but you cannot buy or bomb anyone into cultural acceptance of the concept.

In a perfect world, of course women could drive, little girls could go to school, all faiths could worship in peace, and peaceful NGOs could operate without fear of reprisal in any nation.

The truth is, we have to live in the world as it is, not as we want it to be. Egypt is a necessary player in the game we call defensive diplomacy. The price of their cooperation is about $1.5 billion dollars annually.

Let’s face facts.  The Middle East has no cultural heritage, understanding of, or desire to attain democracy as we understand it.  If the region ever does eschew tribal rule and theocratic government, it will be over not decades, but centuries. That is why many Middle Eastern refugees don’t “assimilate.”  They simply have no framework of reference from which  to operate.

America often doesn’t get nearly as much cooperation out of the nations it supports financially as it should.  Cutting back on total foreign aid even as little as ten percent would certainly fix a lot of freeways and bridges.

But let’s at least be consistent. If we are going to keep the money at home, why not just say that? After all, isn’t part of the Trump message, America first?

Conversely, if we are paying for protection or at least cooperation, let’s call the payments what they are, payoffs for cooperation.

And certainly, let’s not add to the cause of global hypocrisy by saying that we aren’t into nation-building as an excuse for withholding money when we clearly are still doing exactly that.

From → op-ed

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