The State Department has threatened to withdraw the $1.3 billion it sends every year to Egypt because the Egyptians are holding US citizens connected with pro-democracy groups the Egyptians claim have instigated the Tahrir Square movement.
Specifically, the Egyptian military government prevented a half dozen Americans -- including Sam LaHood, director of the US International Republican Institute in Cairo -- from leaving the country. LaHood is the son of US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. The State Department's goal in supporting groups like Mr LaHood's is to encourage democracy friendly to the US.
Before this incident, President Obama warned Egyptian military strongman Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi that the upcoming installment of US military aid was contingent on his playing ball with US interests. The snatching of LaHood and the others turned the situation into a diplomatic incident. LaHood was quoted in The New York Times as wondering whether he would be brought to trial for meddling in Egyptian affairs.
"[T]he whole thing is ludicrous," he said.
That may be true, but even more ludicrous is the failure to provide a similar warning on the other side of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. That is, according to several recent reports, Israel's top leaders are making it known they feel a massive air attack on Iran by Israel is a manageable thing -- that suggestions such bombing attacks would lead to a major conflagration are all bluff. A Sunday New York Times Magazine article by Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman concludes "Israel will indeed strike Iran in 2012."
Why do US leaders threaten to withhold patronage military funds when Egyptian militarists drag their feet on democracy, but not when Israeli militarists seem ready to drag us into World War Three?
Of course, we know the answer to this. Egyptians are backward brown Arabs with a history of living under the thumb of British colonial rule and US imperial hegemony. We know the drill: Bernard Lewis and the failures of Arab modernization. Israel, on the other hand, is just like us, a western garrison state run by a Prime Minister who went to Cheltenham High School just outside of Philadelphia and who likes to mentally link Iranians with Nazi Germany and the holocaust.
With the middle east in upheaval, the fact Israel finds itself a vulnerable fortress state wound so tightly it won't even budge an inch to recognize obvious Palestinian grievances is a global tragedy.