Foreign and Defense Policy, Middle East and North Africa

Rand Paul, Egypt, and the law of the land

Gage Skidmore (Flickr) (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Gage Skidmore (Flickr) (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Yesterday, the Senate whomped a Rand Paul amendment that would have cut off US aid to Egypt and redirected the money to US infrastructure. The vote, 86-13, misleads, as at the last moment several unprincipled politicos members up for re-election – the Senate minority leader included – switched their votes to “yes.” In defending his amendment, Paul reportedly delivered rebuttals via “rambling speeches and wild gestures.” Now, it’s far from my usual habit to defend either Paul or his acolytes, but he was at least partly right about aid to Egypt. As I and many others have written before, the law is clear. There was a coup in Egypt, a coup means a cut off of US assistance, and assistance should have been suspended at the very least. One may not like the law, like the Muslim Brotherhood, like Egypt, or like foreign aid, but the law is the law. The Obama administration, in classic l’etat c’est moi fashion, has decided that while a coup might require an aid cutoff, the law does not require that the president actually make a determination on that key point. This sort of legal parsing is why Congress writ large so mistrusts the executive branch; and Obama’s brazenness has only eroded that relationship further. But I digress.

There are a few problems with the Paul amendment, not least of which is Paul himself. First, playing the populist card by deliberately redirecting aid to Egypt to domestic infrastructure may look awesome to Paul groupies, but practically speaking, it’s a lie. Aid to any country is committed long before senators mosey to the floor to chat about it ex post facto, so the notion that a cutoff would somehow free cash (rather than simply stopping the pipeline, which is the intention behind the law), and that said cash could somehow be sent to, I dunno, Detroit, is nothing more than a lie. Second, most of the aid that goes to Egypt is in the form of military assistance, or Foreign Military Financing. We can (and should) quibble with that, but let’s understand reality for a moment: there are contracts, there are assembly lines, there are real business things that happen with the money (most of it going to US defense contractors). Again, no Detroit. In other words, Paul either intended to deceive or didn’t know enough to understand his amendment wouldn’t really work.

Finally, there’s the loathsomeness behind Paul’s assessment of his detractors, whom he labels “neoconservatives.” I may be unjust when I wonder if Paul has any sense of what that means, but I sure as heck know what many of his supporters mean when they say it. (Hint: they mean Jews.) It’s the main reason why Paul has been so aggressive in his courtship of Israel; he realizes he has been tarred with the brush of anti-semitism and wants to distance himself from it in order to be a viable presidential candidate. Well, more power to him if that wish is sincere. But his efforts have thus far been rather transparent, and his flailing on AIPAC during his defense of his Egypt amendment sounded more like Paul the Elder.

It’s a shame when someone with questionable motivations and lousy strategy needs to stand up for the law of the land in the face of objections from the rest of the cohort that penned those laws. There is a happy middle ground that would respect the law and maintain US influence over Egypt at a critical moment. A suspension of support – which is partially in place since President Obama announced a hold on aircraft transfers to Egypt – with a clear conversation regarding the terms under which it should be resumed is the proper course. Signaling to the Egyptian people and government that the law is the law only when the president feels like it only reinforces the notion held round the world that what matters in Washington is if you’re liked. Was there no one else in the Senate other than Rand Paul willing to stand for that principle? Ugh.

8 thoughts on “Rand Paul, Egypt, and the law of the land

  1. Questionable motives? Why is it questionable to want to put an end to the support of military dictatorships that are unpopular in their own countries?

    • If you think Egypt’s military is unpopular with the people, then you don’t know Egypt and you have not been paying any attention to what has been going on there the past few weeks.

      • Well, it certainly wan’t that popular the last time I was there. (There were tanks parked in front of Mubarak’s residence.) And I see no evidence that there is much of an improvement.

  2. Should have just left mubarik in place. Now look they backed a group with no intention of keeping democracy, while they consolidated power for themselves. If actual fence sitters do not stand up over there the more radical elements willing to use all means…..all means will continue to subvert and run over them. But that is what you get with folks that just don’t get it, and think merely “protesting” against determined people gets you.

  3. As I have always said,…….no bailouts for states or cities, across the board.

    P.s. the anti semite thing is just a low blow by someone that is just ignorant to the fact that many, who speak of TWO WARS TWO WARS FOREIGN AID AND EVIL ISREAL, hate libertarian economic ideas…..hate them with a passion. Thus are not actual libertarians.

    Like most liberal infiltrations, foreign policy, is merely machinations to achieve an end. Ask the pretenders what they think of free markets and capitalism……then bring up specifics issues, based on market principles. You MIGHT get a quick response. That’s how you spot the phonies. Because they do not believe in capitalism, free markets and smaller government (until they get the advantage and control government). Go after the sacred cows of socialism, and you can’t miss the half hearted lies, if the even give the attempt

  4. Why would we want influence in Egypt? Boy, that will be a rabbit-hole. Including in the Sinai?

    You are looking at a nation in meltdown. Syria too.

    Why does the USA have to get involved in every nation on earth? Can we keep a short-list of nations not “vital” or “crucial” Perhaps Suriname or Upper Volta (yes, I know the name changed, but I like the old name)>

    Meanwhile, we are supposed to “do something” and spend money in Egypt, Syria, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, Jordan, (who did I forget) just in the Mideast and Central Asia region.

    Really, let Egypt be Egypt. What have we gained for all the billions of dollars we have sent there so far? A collapsed nation-state? Where rising Islam hates the USA?

    Aren’t you glad we dumped $2 trillion into Iraq? Where they are doing the buddy-buddy thing with Iran?

    • Really, let Egypt be Egypt. What have we gained for all the billions of dollars we have sent there so far? A collapsed nation-state? Where rising Islam hates the USA?

      The GOP senators showed themselves to be total idiots and helped Obama yet again. Instead of voting to follow the law and cutting off aid they talked about ‘leverage’ as if it were real or meant something. The trouble is that the US has already given Egypt more than $70 billion in aid without seeing anything positive. We can’t argue that the US aid is protecting Israel because countries like Syria, which has received no aid, has been at peace with Israel for as long as Egypt has. The Israelis are protected by their military strength, not American aid to its enemies.

      There is also the fact that without deciding to cut spending the GOP is playing into the hands of Democrats. There is no will to cut anything and no rational adults to make hard decisions when they have to be made. Perhaps it is time for fiscal conservatives and libertarians to abandon the GOP and let it die as its predecessors did.

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