Whither Camp David?

Is anyone THIS inept?

In deciding the famous case between two women claiming the same child, King Solomon propounded his “splitting the baby” solution because he knew there would be no need to actually cut the baby in two.  It would be clear from the claimants’ responses who the real mother was.

The Obama administration, by contrast, makes “splitting the baby” a regular feature of its policies.  This is invariably a bad idea.  At best, you end up with two pieces of a dead baby: something no one can use, everyone will be upset over, and that gives at least one party to your compromise nothing else to lose.

The latest instance of splitting the baby is the administration’s decision to impose a putatively friendly, encouraging, partial suspension of aid to Egypt, as a method of rebuking the Egyptians for ousting Mohammed Morsi, without cutting off aid altogether.

If the Obama administration thinks this will be read by the Egyptian people, or by aspirants to democratic government across the Middle East, as a blow for their interests, it could hardly be more comprehensively wrong.  Twenty million Egyptians took to the streets only a matter of weeks ago because they wanted desperately to kick Morsi out.  In theory, he was elected by fair means in 2012. But his regime had quickly become intolerably despotic.

Egyptians protest Obama's perceived backing of the Muslim Brotherhood
Egyptians protest Obama’s perceived backing of the Muslim Brotherhood

The Muslim Brotherhood is regarded with fear and alarm by moderates and the apolitical, as well as by democratizers, throughout the region.  Its prospective victims see nothing good in the idea that the U.S. government may tie foreign aid to a nation’s willingness to accept the Muslim Brotherhood in the halls of government power – or, indeed, to a nation’s willingness to endure without recourse the results of an election, no matter what those results are.  It is by no means an effective advertisement for constitutional government, to imply that it means a people must submit to seeing their neighbors’ churches burned down, or their own livelihoods and their free press outlets mowed under by sharia enforcers.  The benefit of consensual, constitutional government is supposed to be that those things don’t happen to the people.

Obama is already seen by too many in the Middle East as backing the Muslim Brotherhood.  This latest move will only reinforce that dangerous perception.  Unfortunately, it also throws into question America’s current attitude toward the investment we made in the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, in which control of the Sinai Peninsula was returned to Egypt and the two nations agreed to demilitarize it and observe confidence-building forms of consultation over its security.

A key element of that agreement, proposed in the consultations at Camp David in 1978, was the U.S. investment in the military posture of both nations.  Washington doesn’t arm Egypt just because we like Egyptians and think they’re great, although of course we do.  We arm Egypt as part of our commitment to the regional-stability vehicle that is the peace between Egypt and Israel.

The 1979 peace accord is a core element of our policy in the region: a foundation, a base, a pillar, a first principle, a sine qua non.  Like our investment in the Organization of American States, like our investment in NATO, like our investment in our alliances with our Far Eastern allies, our investment in the 1979 peace accord is policy bedrock for the United States.  We do things just because of it: because it’s still our policy, and it’s our policy for good reason.  Because it keeps the peace.

What Obama has chosen to withhold in the partial suspension of aid to Egypt is precisely the list of major weapon systems that we supply as our investment in the Egyptian peace accord with Israel:  the F-16 fighter jets, the Apache helicopters, the Harpoon missiles, the upgrade kits for M1A1 Abrams tanks.  The counterterrorism aid that will not be interrupted is not significant to Egypt’s security posture vis-à-vis Israel; what matters is the major, conventional weapon systems.

Incredibly, a better time.
Incredibly, a better time.


The stability of the accord is predicated in large part on the U.S. guarantee of a balanced approach: an investment in ensuring that neither party to the accord loses its security footing.  Failing to deliver major weapon systems or important upgrades to them jeopardizes this guarantee, and by extension the accord’s stability.

If ever a situation was crying out for quiet diplomacy, it’s this one.  A couple of hours ago, on Fox, I heard Charles Krauthammer argue that if our law requires us to withhold aid to a foreign partner to whom we obviously need to keep aid flowing, then we should change the law.  There is certainly that option, but I think there is plenty of room for simply doing some effective things more quietly.  Rather than abruptly announcing an aid suspension to the media, we could work with the Egyptian provisional government – quietly – to lay out some agreed milestones that would get the weapons deliveries back on track.

Obama should certainly satisfy Congress on the progress of such negotiations.  But there need not be freighted moments of publicity suggesting an interruption of America’s interest in the military balance integral to the Israel-Egypt peace accord.

Unfortunately, such a freighted moment is what we have just had, in the last couple of hours.  It really isn’t possible to overstate the danger of sending undisciplined, perhaps inadvertent signals in this manner.  The American commitment to the 1979 peace accord, as a cornerstone of stability in the Middle East, is something that cannot come into question without throwing the door wide open to destabilization.

I can never quite tell if what we’re seeing from the Obama administration is ineptitude coupled with a peculiar, triangulated ideological moralism, or if it’s something else (it’s hard to even say what).  It seems unlikely to me that there was no one – no one at all – involved in the administration’s deliberations on this who understood the ramifications for the 1979 accord and Middle East stability in general.  But if there was someone, how did things get done in this careless, haphazard manner?

Exit question:  how much longer can any semblance of a status quo in global security hold, with the United States government exercising no care to at least observe its forms?

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard online. She also writes for the new blog Liberty Unyielding.

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18 thoughts on “Whither Camp David?”

  1. You’re certainly right about that, MarcH. There are elements on the right as well as the left that have a shortsighted, foolish perspective on this.

    I will reiterate that I don’t propose we simply ignore US law or Congress’s legitimate concerns about whom we’re sending aid to.

    On that head, it’s worth keeping in mind that the interim government in Egypt is no worse than, and in some ways better than, the Mubarak government to which we sent aid for nearly 30 years. The stability investment was well worth it then, and would still be so, which is why even when Morsi was still in power, I didn’t advocate an abrupt suspension of aid.

    But what we should do is be more engaged, and make aid conditional, but with a closely-engaged path to fulfillment of the conditions on Egypt’s part. It should be clear that we want Egypt to remain eligible for the aid, because we think it’s in everyone’s best interest. We’re not just standing by, looking for reasons to show our displeasure so it will be clear how moral we are. We’re going to quietly pester Egypt — and help, where we can — to remain in our good graces so the basis for the 1979 accord will remain tenable.

    Frankly, al-Sisi & Co will be much better to negotiate this with than Morsi would have been.

  2. Thanks for your response, JE.

    IMHO, if BHO can send Wendy Sherman up the Hill to argue for diluting Iran sanctions legislation then he can (but won’t) send her up the Hill to ask for some sort of a pass for Egypt.

    To quote Elrond from the movie version of LOTR:, “Our list of allies grows thin”.

  3. It seems to me that if the stated objective is to maintain a military aid balance between Egypt and Israel, the logical step now would be to cut military assistance to Israel in proportion to the reduction in aid to Egypt.

    I don’t believe either party would then have any sensible cause to complain…

    It also reduces goverment spending at a time when we are arguing about where to cut the budget.

    Of course that’ll never happen. Sensibility has little to do with how we allocate our resources to Middle Eastern states.

    1. “… if the stated objective is to maintain a military aid balance between Egypt and Israel, the logical step now would be to cut military assistance to Israel …”

      Not a “logical step”, rather a Magoo-type myopic step. Whether or not the current US administration wishes to acknowledge it, with US credibility degraded, Israel now has a big role in preserving the credibility of a free world military presence in the Middle East. If not for Israel, KSA, Egypt and the Gulf Arabs would run, not walk to the doorsteps of the bosses in Moscow, Peking and Tehran.

      1. You might wish to inform yourself better on the “free world’s” opinion about that major role you imagine for the Israelis. Being that it’s members are jockeying for position in the upcoming stampede to the Teheran bosses’ doorstep in order to sign contracts once the sanctions are lifted. As for the other countries you mentioned, especially those “pillars of democracy” the GCC, if they wish to ally themselves with Peking, fine. China can foot the bill of defending the free flow of oil from the Gulf. They buy most of it anyway.

        Talking about myopia, I suggest you consider Israel sprinting towards the bosses, being that the rest of the field has a head start. That might be a logical step, like the gas deal she signed with the boss in Moscow.

        1. The proceeding message was brought to you by the Neo-Isolationist Fan Club of America, Ron Paul founder. Our slogan: “Because it worked so well in the 1930s”.

          1. No MarcH. I’m not neoisolationist, just not Judeocentric, or reckless.

            We entered the war because we were attacked at Pearl Harbor. Had we not, we might have never (officially) entered WWII. That’s all hypothetical now. And I fail to see your point concerning the security of the USA in the time frame you mention. We were not threatened by any power, with the exception, possibly, of Japan. Regardless, when the time came we fought.

            I don’t expect you to understand, but this might help.

            To paraphrase an American Journalist whom I deeply respect and admire:

            Geopolitics, International relations, statecraft, diplomacy and defense, are NOT sub-fields of Holocaust studies. Regardless of how hard you believe the contrary.

            Try and look past the ghettoized view of the world on occasion.

            1. Lol … it’s not every day that I get to watch someone deny being a neo-isolationist and then regurgitate the 1930s isolationist position that the US really wasn’t threatened by the prospect of hyper-aggressive fascist powers taking over large parts of the Eurasian/African land mass. I guess you’ve never heard of Nicholas Spykman (don’t worry, he was a Dutch political geographer, prominent in the 1940s, not Jewish).

              It was especially entertaining that you decided to take it all off and go full-monty 1930s isolationist by invoking the phantom of Jewish manipulation (just in time for Halloween … scary stuff!) while ignoring the minor fact that it was Hitler who declared war on the United States (not unlike the pattern of Khomeini-ist terrorism against the U.S since 1979).

              Love to learn the identity of your favorite journalist who crafts those Jew-cy (but a bit pompous, don’t you think?) scare quotes. Could it be Pat Buchanan, the notorious Vietnam War draft dodger?

              1. Nope, wrong again. Actually I’m very familiar with Spykman. My personal take is that it’s time for him to be turned on his side, if not his head. You see it’s not the same Russia he faced, and the definition of Heartland and Rimland need revising . Although I realize you can’t fathom that, with with your center of the world syndrome.

                The rest of your reply indicates you are obsessed, and dangerous to the furtherance of American interests. It’s to be expected from the traumatized, neurotic offspring of Alvy Singer and Prof. Groeteschele. Make aliyah MarcH, you’ll feel better. We’ll get over the classified material you’ll pass, just like our targeting radar technology that Israel passed to the the Chinese for their SAM’s, which just happens to be slated for sale to the Islamist regime in Turkey. How Ironic.

                BTW, the journalist’s name I respect and admire is Robert Kaplan. Now go f-ck yourself.

                1. “… the journalist’s name I respect and admire is Robert Kaplan.” – Not surprising that he’d be a favorite of yours. A rather shallow wannabe Mackinder/Spykman (although “The Coming Anarchy” was pretty good, he was a disappointing after that). Still, I’m sure Pat is also a pinup of yours.

                  It’s also not surprising that a commenter thinks there is a Jewish conspiracy to control U.S. policy would close with, “go f-ck yourself”. Stay classy, hero.

                  1. F-ck off again hero. I’m not going to war for Bibi and neither is anybody else, Pat included. You can try to turn this into anti-Semitic thing if you insist, but it won’t change that fact.

                    Go to Masada and slit your own damn zealot throats. The rest of the world is trying (with great difficulty) to find a way to get along.

                    You can’t run roughshod over me. You aren’t the only one who has served this country.

                    1. You need a tutorial on delivery of the above vulgarism. FO is supposed to be an ultimate put-down, a bolt from Zeus or a .45 slug that leaves the recipient speechless, embarrassed and unable to respond.

                      You shouldn’t have to repeat it in a conversation.

  4. I enter the Romper Room Sandbox to say the Gulf States have already pledged and are paying (to Egypt) much more than any shortfall the US may enforce.
    The stylish,social media, campaigner,good talker,insignificant President of the US really misses the hood. Brother that is.

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