Democracy is a messy beast, especially if it isn’t reliability “pro-US”. Hence, the last decades have seen very close relationships between Washington and a host of brutal dictatorships.
The officer corps of Egypt’s powerful military has been educated at defense colleges in the United States for 30 years. The Egyptian armed forces have about 1,000 American M1A1 Abrams tanks, which the United States allows to be built on Egyptian soil. Egypt permits the American military to stage major operations from its bases, and has always guaranteed the Americans passage through the Suez Canal.
The relationship between the Egyptian and American militaries is, in fact, so close that it was no surprise on Friday to find two dozen senior Egyptian military officials at the Pentagon, halfway through an annual week of meetings, lunches and dinners with their American counterparts.
By the afternoon, the Egyptians had cut short the talks to return to Cairo, but not before a top Defense Department official, Alexander Vershbow, had urged them to exercise “restraint,” the Pentagon said.
It remained unclear on Saturday, as the Egyptian Army was deployed on the streets of Cairo for the first time in decades, to what degree the military would remain loyal to the embattled president, Hosni Mubarak.
The crisis has left the Obama administration to try to navigate a peaceful outcome and remain close to an important ally, and the military relationship could be crucial in that effort.