As I was combing through the latest pile of WikiLeaks cables, the batch including inflammatory material contributing to the potential revolution now underway in Egypt, I was struck by this sentence in a secret briefing to General Norman Schwarz in 2009:
President Mubarak and military leaders view our military assistance program as the cornerstone of our mil-mil relationship and consider the USD 1.3 billion in annual FMF (Foreign Military Financing) as “untouchable compensation” for making and maintaining peace with Israel. The tangible benefits to our mil-mil relationship are clear: Egypt remains at peace with Israel, and the U.S. military enjoys priority access to the Suez Canal and Egyptian airspace… Egypt remains a key U.S. ally…
One way to demonstrate Egypt’s continued strategic importance is through shifting more FMF funding to address asymmetric threats like terrorism and improving border security… The EAF [Egyptian Air Force]… [is] prepar[ing] to purchase 24 F-16 aircraft that will require a costly retrofit with less-advanced weapons systems… [Some] systems are either not releasable to any country or denied for political reasons, mainly due to concerns regarding Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge.
This hogwash easily illustrates the inconsistency of American policy short of one key goal: “buying” the political support of foreign governments by bribing their militaries.
On the one hand, Egypt is a “key ally.” On the other, the U.S. is deliberately fobbing off second-rate technology — and, notice, charging them to downgrade it further — on the principle that Israel must always have a stronger military. (Israel is also a major recipient of military aid.) On the one hand, the military funding is supposed to be used to push Egypt into counterterrorism. On the other, they’re selling them F-16 fighter jets, which don’t really have any role in counterterrorism. Of course, there is an obvious benefit for General Dynamics, the American company that manufactures the F-16.
So the Americans get a reliable ally, and the recipient military gets a ton of cash which it can use on American planes, or suppressing protests, or whatever.Tweet