Egypt at the Brink: My Contribution to a New Book on the Sunni States
The London Center for Policy Research (www.londoncenter.org) has just released a short book on America's allies in the Sunni Arab world, titled, The Sunni Vanguard: Can Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia survive the New Middle East? Former Hudson Institute President Herbert London and former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Jed Babbin wrote the essays on Turkey and Saudi Arabia, respectively; I contributed a section on Egypt. The introduction to my section is below.
The United States faces a unique challenge in Egypt: state failure in Egypt would unleash problems orders of magnitude greater than the collapse of Libya. Yet avoiding state failure is especially difficult because Egypt's economy is in utter ruin after sixty years of "Arab socialist" mismanagement. It is a banana republic without the bananas, a mainly rural country that imports half its food, the host to a vast jobless proletariat living off a state bread subsidy.
With the U.S. increasingly withdrawn from Egypt, we have seen three countries involved in Egypt. The first is Saudi Arabia, which is lending the country enough money to keep the bread subsidy intact, and preventing actual starvation. The second is Russia, which has stepped in to sell Egypt arms after the United States foolishly withdrew. The third is China. Chinese companies are constructing a north-south rail line and have undertaken to build a national broadband network.
U.S. policy should seek to minimize Russian influence, which can only grow at America's expense. We should maintain our strong ties to Egypt's military, the only source of stability in a situation bordering on state failure. Despite our vigorous (and well-founded) objections to Chinese foreign policy elsewhere, we should cooperate with China in investment in Egypt: here China's influence is economic rather than strategic, and its investments represent no threat to American interests. We have a uniquely difficult challenge in salvaging Egypt's economy, and China's willingness to invest in the country is a net positive.
The first paragraphs of my esssay from the London Center book and its conclusion are on the next page.