This leaves the Obama administration in a bind. Obama and his appointees backed the Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Egypt from the beginning, and as late as last week urged moderation and dialogue on the opposition, which means supporting the status quo. This was not only inimical to American interests but downright stupid. Even Islamists have to eat, and the Muslim Brotherhood had no hope forestalling economic collapse.

Obama is all talk and no money, though: the administration cannot squeeze meaningful sums out of Congress for Egyptian aid. The only prospective rescuer with deep enough pockets to keep Egypt from disintegrating is Saudi Arabia, and Saudis almost certainly would make the suppression of the Brotherhood a condition for aid. Whether the Saudis will do so remains a matter of pure speculation. Unlike Turkey, whose huge foreign trade deficit the Saudis have helped cover with tens of billions of dollars of short-term loans, Egypt is no help against Iran, the Saudis’ major strategic worry. But the math says that this is the only scenario that would avert a humanitarian catastrophe in the short term. If the Obama administration cared about the condition of the Egyptian people, it would throw the Muslim Brotherhood under the bus and try its best to broker such a deal.