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Foreign Aid Abomination in Egypt


The crisis in Egypt is providing another real-world example of how differently statists think as compared to how we libertarians think, especially when it comes to moral principles and foreign policy. Demonstrations of the statist mindset have been provided by editorials about Egypt that have appeared this week in both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.

The Egyptian military has made it clear to the Egyptian people that it intends to remain the ultimate foundation of power in Egyptian society. The military will be permitted to elect a president and a legislature but both the president and the legislature will have to answer to the military. Under the military’s system, neither the president nor the legislature will be permitted to take any action that doesn’t meet with the approval of the military.

In other words, Egypt shall continue to be run by a military dictatorship, the same military dictatorship that has governed the country for decades. While the Egyptian people succeed in ousting the longtime head of the dictatorship, Hosni Mubarak, a career military man, their hopes of establishing a democratic government have been dashed by the military’s insistence on continuing the military dictatorship that Mubarak headed.

To ensure that the Egyptian people get the point, the military recently enforced the orders of the judges on its supreme court to dissolve the Parliament. The military also ordered that martial law be imposed on Egyptian society, thereby refortifying the military’s power to take people into custody without warrants, torture them, incarcerate them indefinitely without trial, and even execute them, perhaps after some sort of kangaroo military tribunal.

What is the response of the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times? Their position is the standard statist one: They’re saying that the U.S. government should threaten a suspension of foreign aid to Egypt until the military dictatorship agrees to permit a transition to a democratic system.

The New York Times editorializes:

American officials were right to warn the generals on Monday that they risk losing billions of dollars if they don’t swiftly transfer power to the president, ensure elections for a new Parliament and begin writing a new constitution with help from a broad range of Egyptians.

The Los Angeles Times editorializes:

The Egyptian military’s self-aggrandizement has already provoked calls in Congress for a suspension of military aid, which totals $1.3 billion a year, more than to almost any other country…. On Monday, a State Department spokesperson … reminded the armed services that they “made a commitment to allow a transfer of democratic power, and we want to see them meet those commitments.” We hope that message is being conveyed to Egypt’s generals in private in much stronger terms.

I think it’s safe to say that both newspapers represent perfectly the standard, mainstream statist mindset.

Do you see the problems with that mindset? Statists suffer from two major maladies: One, they cannot recognize the fundamental immorality in the foreign-aid system that they implicitly endorse and, two, they’re unable to break free of the statist paradigm that has their mind in its grip and embrace a different paradigm.

The biggest obstacle to the achievement of a democratic system was never Mubarak but rather the military dictatorship that Mubarak was head of. Getting rid of Mubarak accomplished nothing of a permanent nature because it left the military dictatorship that he headed in place.

Now, take a wild guess why the Egyptian military dictatorship is so powerful — that is, why it has the enormous capability to oppress the Egyptian people — why it is so difficult for the Egyptian people to rein it in and subordinate it to civilian rule.

The simplistic answer is that the military has the guns, the tanks, the planes, the troops, the tear gas canisters, the bullets, the bombs, the prison camps, the torture chambers, and the assassins to enforce its control over the Egyptian people.

But that answer obviously doesn’t go to the heart of the problem. The real question is: Where did the dictatorship gets all that weaponry, equipment, and supplies to become such a powerful oppressor of the Egyptian people?

The dictatorship became that powerful thanks to the ardent support of the U.S. government. Billions and billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars have flowed into the Egyptian military dictatorship’s coffers, year after year, decade after decade. While some of that money has undoubtedly been used to line the personal pockets of military officials, much of it was used to purchase weaponry and other instruments of oppression, mostly from U.S. weapons merchants, that the Egyptian dictatorship has employed against the Egyptian people and might well employ in the future.

It has been the U.S. government that has been the enabler and supporter of this military dictatorship. If the military stands by its decision to remain the ultimate power in Egypt and if the citizenry decide to resort to force to establish a democratic system, the guns, tanks, and planes that will be employed by the military against the Egyptian people will have come from the U.S. government.

Why can’t statists see that? Why can’t they bring themselves to question the entire system of foreign aid, especially foreign aid to dictatorships? Instead, the statist mindset is essentially as follows: “Our system is our system and it is permanent in nature. Americans should just accept that. We must continue to support foreign regimes, including dictatorships, with foreign aid and use the aid as a tool to impose our will on the foreign regime. If it fails to comply with our will, we should threaten a suspension of the aid until it agrees to comply with our dictates.”

That is moral bankruptcy in its purest form. The U.S. government is in large part responsible for the fact that the Egyptian people have been suffering for decades under a brutal military tyranny. It is time for U.S. officials and American statists to come to grips with that fact and to accept responsibility for it.

Moreover, now is not the time to continue the same morally bankrupt system. Now is the time for Americans to question and challenge the entire foreign-aid paradigm that the statists have foisted upon our land. Now is the time for Americans to embrace the libertarian paradigm, one that is based on sound moral, economic, and political principles: Immediately terminate all foreign aid to every regime in the world and leave American taxpayers free to keep their own money to do with what they want.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.