U.S. Priority Should Be Stopping Egyptian Radicals

I rarely find myself in disagreement on foreign policy with the Washington Post’s editorial page, which under the leadership of editor Fred Hiatt and deputy editor Jackson Diehl (a Pulitzer Prize finalist this year) has been a leading voice championing Arab democrats long before it was fashionable to do so—and championing a muscular American foreign policy long after it was fashionable to do so, at least in the progressive salons of Washington. But I would register a slight disagreement with the Post editorial today regarding aid to Egypt.

I agree completely with the main thrust of their argument, that the U.S. should do more to aid Egypt in a difficult transition period. Where I disagree, slightly, is in their contention that “the main U.S. effort should be centered on helping Egypt revive its fragile economy.” They suggest a debt forgiveness program conditioned on “Egypt’s implementation of sensible free-market economic policies.” That’s fine as far as it goes, and there is no doubt that in the long-term economic development is important to Egypt’s future. But in the short term there is a battle for Egypt’s soul going on between Islamists and secularists, and no infusion of economic aid will make much difference.

We need to do something to avert the possible scenario that Gideon Rachman warns of in the Financial Times:

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U.S. Priority Should Be Stopping Egyptian Radicals

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