Josh Rogin reports that "the Obama administration has decided to temporarily suspend the disbursement of most direct military aid ... to the Egyptian government while it conducts a broad review of the relationship," although the administration "won’t publicly acknowledge all aspects of the aid suspension and maintains its rhetorical line that no official coup determination has been made."
This would seem to be one of those rare significant policy shifts that's imbued with no significant consequences. The GOP will grouse, of course--it's "too cute by half, leaving the U.S. with little leverage in Egypt and appearing to condone gross violations of human rights in the process," said a Republican operative--but at present the U.S. can either apply pressure or not, with just about equal influence. Meaning none.
After decades of a Metternichian mindset followed by the rudest of awakenings in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States is finally growing up. Being a world power no longer by definition means "powerful"--and no amount of neocon swagger or avowed "moral authority' can change that equation. Tolstoy observed that kings are but history's slaves, and the culminating wreckage of the Middle East's history is proving--with respect to President Obama's optionless predicament--correct.
Which is what puzzles me when it comes to passages such this, from the NYT's Roger Cohen:
For the United States and Europe, [Egypt] amounts to a colossal strategic failure. Nothing ... was more important than getting Egypt right. President Obama, who began his presidency with an attempt to build bridges to the Arab and Muslim world through a speech in Cairo, has seen his greatest failure in that very city. Post-Tahrir Egypt stands now as a monument to America’s declining influence in the world, even in a nation receiving $1.5 billion in annual aid.
That seems both naive and confused. Obama's "failure" is Egypt's failure, just as Truman never "lost" China. What's more, Cohen concedes as much when he notes that Egypt's implosive chaos is a "monument to America's declining influence in the world"--an enervation that preceded Egyptians' indifference to Obama's sound, bridge-building advice.
Cut the aid, suspend the aid, continue the aid, whatever. The Egyptian military will do only what it perceives is in its own best interests, in large part because the once-puppeteering United States is now just another outsider.