Obama's stance on Egypt: From Obamacare to the 'military industrial complex'

Obama's stance on Egypt: From Obamacare to the 'military industrial complex'

Washington : DC : USA | Aug 18, 2013 at 11:59 AM PDT
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Complex 15/03

While pressure from both Democrats and Republicans challenging President Barack Obama’s cautionary stance on the Egyptian crisis seems to be mounting, the reasons Obama is refusing to call the takeover a coup and withdraw the $1.3 billion in military assistance stems from efforts to maintain his credibility rating at home. Domestic policies, including Obamacare, which is about to be initiated Oct. 1, are his principle concern in keeping his approval ratings from taking a dip. Domestic and international policies, however, are a web of shifting economic and political kaleidoscopic relationships.

In July, a Quinnipiac University national poll rated Obama with a 45 percent approval. Based on the survey, Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said, "President Barack Obama is in a slump, under water for the last two surveys."

Obama does get a positive rating -- 52 percent approval to 43 percent disapproval -- for his handling of terrorism, and a 46-45 percent split for his handling of Afghanistan, Quinnipiac reported.

His international approval rating has decreased since the Egyptian crisis which so far has resulted in approximately 600 deaths. The Egyptian military increased their pressure on Morsi supporters through violent actions as Obama would not take a stand on the coup that would have eliminated foreign military aid. Obama’s inaction has made him appear powerless on the international stage, and raised criticism of his Middle East policy, according to a report in The Hill.

After the Quinnipiac Poll Brown said, "Generally, voters don't seem happy with some of the president's policies, but they still give him majority support on his personal characteristics such as honesty and leadership. They also trust Obama more than Republicans 44-38 percent, to fix the economy. This compares to a 43-43 percent split on this measure May 30."

Assuming Brown is correct, Obama’s apparent waffling on the Egyptian crisis is based on his wanting to maintain credibility on the domestic front even if the United States credibility is falling globally; however, the dividing line between foreign and domestic policy is blurred. Some conservative news outlets, however, are taking the myopic view that because Obama’s rating is falling internationally, this should be the primary consideration, when in reality the situation is more complex.

The polls suggest Obama’s rating on foreign policy has been falling. Nevertheless, he recognizes the American people are tired of foreign entanglements resulting in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have been costly in American lives, as well as using taxpayer dollars to fund unpopular conflicts that seemingly only the government wanted to wage.

Outrage on both sides of the aisle

The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 forbids the US to give assistance to countries where "duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup.” Both Democrats and Republicans are questioning the president’s refusal to declare the Egyptian crisis a coup.

"While President Obama condemns the violence in Egypt, his administration continues to send billions of taxpayer dollars to help pay for it," Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said in a statement, "With more than 500 dead and thousands more injured this week alone, chaos only continues to grow in Egypt. So, Mr. President, stop skirting the issue, follow the law and cancel all foreign aid to Egypt,” according to a report in Al Jazeera.

Democrats are likewise dissatisfied with the president’s stance, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, a liberal Democrat from Vermont, said the military aid should end immediately.

"While suspending joint military exercises as the President has done is an important step, our law is clear: Aid to the Egyptian military should cease unless they restore democracy," he said in a statement in Al Jazeera.

Follow the money—again

While dodging the verbal bullets from congressional leaders and keeping domestic policy ratings at a reasonable level on the eve of Obamacare, the administration definitely has had other issues to consider. For instance, there is a decades long agreement by the US to aid the Egyptian military, and it’s not all a benevolent gift. Currently 80 percent of the $1.3 billion is promised to the coffers of American defense companies. Lockheed-Martin, the producer of F-16 fighter jets and General Dynamics, the producer of M1A1 Abrams tanks register $8.5 billion worth of military contracts to US companies from Egypt since 2008, but only $4.7 billion worth of them have been delivered, according to the Washington Post.

An analyst in the Daily News said, “If Obama cancels the aid, the US defense companies will be indebted to Egypt some $3.8 billion and penalties. If Obama calls the Egypt coup a coup, then he may have to face similar trouble in the Congress.”

Is the president stuck between a rock and hard policy place?

If military aid is cut to Egypt, it affects major American defense contractors, including Boeing and Raytheon, as well those mentioned above. American jobs could suffer. As a comparison, consider $60.5 billion in military sales went to the autocracy of Saudi Arabia in 2010, as well as the number of American jobs filled to meet the demand.

As former President Dwight Eisenhower warned in 1961 upon leaving office, beware of the military industrial complex. He foretold the entanglement between domestic and foreign policy and its effect on future governments, the American people and the image of the United States internationally.

Obama is prevented from developing policy independent of the military industrial complex because of the repercussions on the economy, American defense contractors and the secondary fallout affecting jobs in the industry.

Policy decisions by Obama, and most heads of states internationally, cannot be decided in a vacuum. The political climate in Egypt and the Middle East in general, whether at peace or in conflict, dictates diplomatic and economic policy development at home and abroad. In addition, human rights concerns complicate the US position as the violence in Cairo continues, and the military regime in power has not chosen to deescalate.

Supporting a military regime by fulfilling military aid sends a confusing message that while calling for peaceful solutions as Obama has done, the US would be supplying the military with the means to continue the conflict with a regime that many now believe gained control by a coup. Still, should the interests of US defense contractors and jobs trump American involvement in a crisis that could progress to civil war? The solutions are far from simple.

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In 2009 President Obama's Cairo speech called Egypt the "heart of the Arab world." Middle East policy would be based on support of democratic governance.
Dava Castillo is based in Clearlake, California, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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  • 	In 2009 President Obama's Cairo speech called Egypt the "heart of the Arab world." Middle East policy would be based on support of democratic governance. 


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