The recent coup -- yes, I boldly think it can be declared as such -- and subsequent eruption of horrifiic repressive violence by the Egyptian military strikes me as an extraordinarily destabilizing event. The Egyptian military appears to be staking all on the destruction of the Muslim Brotherhood, a strategy that at best will lead to the kind of violence that characterized 1990s Algeria, at worst to a Syrian-style civil war played out on a stage four times larger in the epicenter of the Arab world. Carnage and chaos seem a certainty.
Much of the discussion domestically centers on whether the U.S. should cut off aid to Egypt. It seems to me that we must -- as a minimal gesture to decency if nothing else. But I don't think it will make any difference or prove to be meaningful leverage in terms of promoting a peaceful end to this conflict. Although I am sure that the Egyptian military enjoys siphoning off its billions in U.S. taxpayer-funded bribery, I suspect that in the end the money pales in comparison to the institutional imperative of re-seizing and holding power in the wake of the Morsi interregnum. The question is how much blood will be spilled in this quest and whether this violence will spread elsewhere in a region already beset with sectarian strife.
To top off all of this misery, the battered Egyptian economy is likely to tank further as tourism virtually ceases in response to this unrest.
As for the U.S. role in things, I remain pressimistic. I think both the coup and the violent repression should be denounced and that aid should be cut off, but these are largely gestures -- necessary but ultimately empty. They will not change the facts on the ground because, in the end, the United States, for all its power, is simply not central to this struggle. It seems almost impossible to get American commentators to comprehend this fact -- that all events in the world are neither about us nor controllable by us.