David Harsanyi
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If the recent media coverage of the Middle East has taught the American public one thing, it's this: All journalists are, evidently, also qualified Egyptologists.

So trust me when I tell you that after nearly a day of intermittent research on the Internet, I came across only a single criterion that foreign nations must meet to receive aid from the United States: They just have to ask. They don't even have to ask nicely.

Actually, we began bribing the Egyptian dictatorship -- which is pronounced "presidency" in Arabic -- with approximately $2 billion yearly beginning in the late '70s. The funding has helped Egyptians break the habit of launching wars they couldn't win and saved the Israeli army the hassle of sending tanks to exurbs of Cairo every few years.

What the dollars did not seem to do is help foster any more liberalism; the money did not dissuade the Egyptian state-run media from fomenting anti-Western conspiracies and hatred, nor did it quell radicalism, and most consequentially, it did not stem the growing poverty in the nation.

Most of our funding is apparently being used to maintain an impressive modern military force that is ready to defend the Egyptian homeland from Cypriot pirates and Coptic separatists -- both of which I believe I just made up and pose an existential threat to Egypt that equals anything in the real world.

We experts use words like "fomenting" and understand that meddling in the politics of other nations is typically a disaster -- but only because these nations are disasters to begin with. Not to be jejune (which is French for "stupid American"), but our ancestors have been trying to get away from Egyptians since they had a thriving construction sector for a very good reason.

So what do we do? "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch" is a famous American axiom. And shouldn't our money come with the promise to be better?

At a news conference in Cairo a few years ago, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates explained to locals that though we here are unwavering proponents of human rights, "it is important to continue our work and our friendship with these countries. And the position of the administration is that as an example the foreign military financing that's in the budget should be without conditions. And that is our sustained position."

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