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The Cost of Egypt’s Revolution?

3:19 PM, May 11, 2011 • By LEE SMITH
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To feed Egypt there are essentially two choices. The first is to keep the country as stable as possible, prove a relatively reliable partner to Washington, and reform the economy so that it’s amenable to foreign investment. But neither the Egyptian military nor the likely presidential candidates are going to go that route since this is what got Mubarak tossed out, and his sons locked up in jail—“corruption,” as Egypt’s young middle class revolutionaries called it.

The other option is to present an Egypt much less reliable and stable than Mubarak’s. In other words, a scary Egypt, an unpredictable Arab leviathan that might go to war with Israel or just fall apart at the seams. In order to keep this Egypt from exploding or imploding, someone has to pay, but it’s unlikely to be the Saudis or the Iranians. There’s no superpower contest in the Middle East, so the only option is Washington. To survive, Egypt needs to raise the rent on the Americans. “They think Mubarak sold Egypt for too little at $2 billion a year,” says Kramer. “They’re rattling the cup.”

Cairo is normalizing relations with Iran and giving Hamas a ride in order to get the Americans to pay up—unless they want to see Egypt get really ugly. The military is not going to crack down on the Salafists unless Washington pays for it, full price and not as part of any package deal. So what if street confrontations between Muslims and Copts leaving dozens dead in the streets of Cairo keep tourists at home? $15 billion a year in tourist revenue is not enough to cover Egypt’s basic requirements in the first place.

The problem of course is that the U.S. doesn’t have the money to keep Egypt afloat either. The bill for Egypt’s revolution has come due, and as it turns out, everyone left his wallet at home.

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