Why We Give Egypt So Many Weapons

Two days ago a friend said to me, “I’ve never understood why we give Egypt so much military aid.” I’ve actually been waiting patiently since 1993 for someone to say that to me.

I wrote my doctoral dissertation about the formation of American arms transfer policy toward the Arab-Israeli antagonists. In other words, I could actually bore you from now until the end of time with a really serious answer to that question, not just the kind of fine-sounding thing pundits typically pull out of their keisters because there’s a microphone in front of them. I really, actually know the answer.

That dissertation has been read, I think, by four people at most, one of them my supervisor, two of them my examiners, and one of them, maybe, my mother. Last I checked, it had never been checked out of the library, not even once. So obviously, this is my big moment.

Are you ready? Are you curious? Here’s the answer. Or part of it. There’s more, but I’ll wait for you all to beg to read the rest.

I’ll keep waiting. I’ve been waiting for eighteen years. I can wait a while longer. 

  1. Foxman

     I wonder what percentage of dissertations are never read by anybody but those directly involved?

  2. Douglas Pologe

    Claire: Would you please tell me what you said in your thesis without my having to read it? Please?

  3. Mel Foil

    Wasn’t that the standard way that countries got American arms during the Cold War? First import lots of Soviet arms, with some Soviet advisers, and then ask the Americans if they had a better idea…. “Hey, you guys sell arms…don’t you?”

  4. TeeJaw

    Now you can say five people have read it, almost.  I read all of what you released in the link.  I think this is what it says:

    Before 1974 Egypt was a Soviet client.  The U.S. feared the spread of Soviet influence in the Middle East and wanted to gain more influence with Egypt.  The U.S. could not wean Egypt away from the Soviets without a promise of arms.  There was much talk of helping Egypt have all it needed to compete in the 20th Century, including modern arms.    The U.S. also wanted other Arab countries to see that it was to their advantage to make deals with the U.S.

    After Sadat dumped the Soviets and became open to U.S., we wanted to reward him.  Congress was concerned about Israel’s security, but a crucial CIA document showing that Israel has nuclear weapons was released with propitious timing during discussion of the sale of 6 C-130 aircraft to Egypt.  This convinced undecided members of Congress to approve the deal.  It appears this is the event, if there is one, that opened the floodgates for arms sales to Egypt.  Every president since supports it.

  5. TeeJaw

    Your thesis says more than what I posted above but there’s a 200 word limit.

  6. Douglas Pologe

    Thanks TeeJaw.

  7. Claire Berlinski
    C

    TeeJaw–A++. Exactly. Etoile, yes.

  8. Casey Taylor

    This makes me so happy, you don’t even know.  Smootch.

  9. Deleted Account

     I read it; it’s rather well done. Unfortunately it brings back the general disgust I felt back then towards Nixon, Kissinger, Congress, and Carter, and Realpolitik in general. Why is it so hard to simply stand beside Israel – not because it is Jewish, not because of Holocaust guilt – but simply because it is a free and democratic state? It’s not perfect, but then again, neither are we. But the struggle is the same.

  10. Rick O

     Thanks.  As informative as anything on Wikileaks.  

  11. Pseudodionysius

    Well!

    I just popped it into Evernote (the greatest application in the world ever invented for layabout house cats like me) and was just about to settle down with a cup of coffee and a tin of tuna and now you’ve all spilled the coffee beans.

    Whatever happened to Claire’s no peeking rule?

  12. Ken Sweeney
    Douglas Pologe: Claire: Would you please tell me what you said in your thesis without my having to read it? Please? · Jan 29 at 7:28am

    We give Egypt weapons to buy influence and allies.   See, foreign policy is easy.

  13. Aaron Miller

    So is it a success story or a story of caution?

  14. Claire Berlinski
    C
    Casey Taylor: This makes me so happy, you don’t even know.  Smootch. · Jan 29 at 8:02am

    I knew, I knew, that if I just waited long enough, if I just kept the faith, one day someone would respond this way to a discussion of my doctoral dissertation. I never gave up hope. 

  15. Daniel Frank

    Wow!  How beautifully and clearly written, Claire.  I learned a lot in just a few minutes of reading.

    I just have one question: How did you manage to write an entire PhD thesis without once mentioning Foucault? And how did you subsequently slip it past your advisors in this state?

  16. Pseudodionysius

    Yes Daniel. I’ve read some hideously contorted doctoral work and this was crystal clear. A pleasant reading experience. I’ll give something more substantive once I’ve finished it.

  17. Douglas Pologe
    Ken Sweeney

    Douglas Pologe: Claire: Would you please tell me what you said in your thesis without my having to read it? Please? · Jan 29 at 7:28am

    We give Egypt weapons to buy influence and allies.   See, foreign policy is easy. · Jan 29 at 8:18am

    Sounds good to me – even if Dale Carnegie wouldn’t have exactly agreed.

  18. Claire Berlinski
    C
    Aaron Miller: So is it a success story or a story of caution? · Jan 29 at 8:19am

    It’s both. It’s mostly an answer to the question. And the answer–which no one is apt to hear–is not, “because we are terrifying imperialist hypocrites who hate the Egyptian people.” Yet it is perfectly understandable to me that a young, poorly-educated Egyptian who finds himself on the business end of an American-made tank right now would be inclined to think so. 

  19. Casey Taylor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    Casey Taylor: This makes me so happy, you don’t even know.  Smootch. · Jan 29 at 8:02am

    I knew, I knew, that if I just waited long enough, if I just kept the faith, one day someone would respond this way to a discussion of my doctoral dissertation. I never gave up hope.  · Jan 29 at 8:27am

    Eighteen years isn’t too long to wait for a man to love the product of your mind.  Happy early-Valentine’s Day, Beautiful.

  20. The Great Adventure!

    Claire said:

    “In other words, I could actually bore you from now until the end of time with a really serious answer to that question, not just the kind of fine-sounding thing pundits typically pull out of their keisters because there’s a microphone in front of them.”

    I’m reminded of one of my favorite Dilbert lines – The word “Analysis” is a combination of two Greek words – Anal, and ysis which means “to pull out of”.