It was very disappointing to read the letter sent to House leadership by Rep. Joe Walsh and 34 other Republican Congressmen encouraging the withdrawal of financial support from the nascent democracy in Egypt. While it is prudent to rebalance American aid in favor of development rather than arms, this rush to abandon an entire people because of the historical affiliation of their freely elected president is exactly the type of reactionary, short-sighted policy that the U.S. needs to avoid. Millions of people throughout the Middle East and North Africa have been inspired to finally throw off the shackles of authoritarianism, and American policymakers need to step up as partners and judge these new leaders by their actions instead of vague statements and innuendo.
Withdrawing funding would have very real, negative effects on U.S. relations with these young governments, and these Congressional critics seem inclined to pull that plug based not on any actual policy decisions that Morsi has made, but merely on some hypothetical scenario.
If Rep. Walsh and his colleagues believe in the democratic system, they have to trust that empowering individuals through the democratic process — along with taking steps to promote the development of civil society and economic growth — is the only path that will lead to a stable and prosperous Middle East.
Rep. Walsh correctly identified the stakes, even while coming to the wrong conclusion. He suggests that the newly-elected President Morsi “favors normalizing relations with Iran, including expanding areas of political and economic cooperation in order to create a balance of pressure in the region.” The question is, would the withdrawal of American support and partnership make it more or less likely that the Egyptian government would be driven to embrace Iran? The Arab Spring has created a powerful window of opportunity for America as new governments and young Arabs are reassessing their relationships to the West, but if Congress chooses to close their door and leave them out in the cold — governments like Iran, Russia, and China will be more than happy to welcome them in. If this group of Congressmen truly believes in promoting American interests in the region, the policy they are advocating is exactly backwards.