The Washington Post‘s Jackson Diehl argues that the U.S. has chosen the “wrong allies” in Egypt by siding, effectively, with the military regime. Instead, he says, we should be supporting the secular liberals currently in prison for organizing protests: Ahmed Maher, Mohammed Adel, Ahmed Douma and Alaa Abdel Fattah.
Two quibbles with Diehl. One: we are not quite siding with the regime. While Secretary of State John Kerry has appeared to do so, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has courted the Egyptian military. Yet President Barack Obama himself has not warmed to Egypt’s new leaders as he did to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Two: The Egyptian military is somewhat aligned with the U.S. in the struggle against Islamic extremism, and is said to be preparing to target Hamas in the Gaza Strip, for example. Yes, they are anti-American, and hardly good for U.S. interests in the long run, much like the Saudis. But it is probable preferable to the alternative.
That does not mean we should embrace the regime. But we should not demonize it, and we should welcome its transition to a new constitutional order. We should also champion the cause of the political prisoners and urge further reforms. Balancing human rights and national security interests is tough–but there is no other way.