Denied: Congress Cuts Off Kerry From Giving Egypt More Foreign Aid

Daniel Doherty

3/10/2013 8:30:00 AM - Daniel Doherty

Funding less-than-friendly foreign governments is probably the last thing the “Brokest Nation in History” should be doing with its taxpayer dollars. Nonetheless, before Congress stopped him, our illustrious secretary of state went rogue and offered Egypt hundreds of millions of dollars more in foreign aid than he was legally authorized to deliver. Fortunately, that idea was quickly nipped in the bud:

Secretary of State John Kerry had hoped to offer considerably more aid to Egypt than the $250 million he announced during his trip to Cairo but was blocked by Congress, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said.

“This is not the aid package that the administration wanted to announce,” Royce told The Hill. The administration wanted to release a “larger sum,” but bowed to the wishes of Royce's committee as well as congressional appropriators, he said.

Royce wouldn't say how much Kerry had hoped to announce, but the State Department has been pressing Congress to greenlight $450 million in direct aid since last fall.

“Our approach is not the full-throttle administration approach of delivering all the aid that they wanted to deliver, but rather a measured approach of tying tranches to results as it pertains to the peace treaty with Israel, to cooperation with respect to smuggling [into Gaza] and with respect to economic reforms to guarantee civil rights and the rule of law within Egypt,” he said. “That's the pressure that we're applying.”

Kerry announced the new aid package last Sunday during a stop in Cairo as part of his first trip overseas. The money includes $190 million in budgetary support that's part of the $1 billion in debt relief President Obama pledged in 2011, along with $60 million for an enterprise fund.

The aid, Kerry said, was a “good-faith effort to spur reform and help the Egyptian people at this difficult time.”

Charles Krauthammer addressed this very issue in his latest column. As it happens, Dr. K supports giving foreign aid to Egypt -- under certain conditions, of course -- but believes Secretary Kerry is in desperate need of a lesson in diplomacy:

[W]e should not cut off aid to Egypt. It’s not that we must blindly support unfriendly regimes. It is perfectly reasonable to cut off aid to governments that are intrinsically hostile and beyond our influence. Subsidizing enemies is merely stupid.

But Egypt is not an enemy, certainly not yet. It may no longer be our strongest Arab ally, but it is still in play. The Brotherhood aims to establish an Islamist dictatorship. Yet it remains a considerable distance from having done so.

Precisely why we should remain engaged. And engagement means using our economic leverage. …

Any foreign aid we give Egypt should be contingent upon a reversal of this repression and a granting of space to secular, democratic, pro-Western elements.

That’s where Kerry committed his mistake. Not in trying to use dollar diplomacy to leverage Egyptian behavior, but by exercising that leverage almost exclusively for economic, rather than political, reform.

Kerry’s major objective was getting Morsi to apply for a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. Considering that some of this $4.8 billion ultimately comes from us, there’s a certain comic circularity to this demand. What kind of concession is it when a foreign government is coerced into . . . taking yet more of our money?

We have no particular stake in Egypt’s economy. Our stake is in its politics. Yes, we would like to see a strong economy. But in a country ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood?

Krauthammer goes on to say that the U.S. government should not give Egypt foreign aid unless they agree to certain political concessions -- namely, amending their constitution and allowing for free and fair elections. Only then, he believes, should Egypt be given access to our hard-earned tax dollars -- money we obviously can’t afford to just give away carelessly.

Unfortunately, this isn’t something America’s top foreign diplomat seems to understand.