In the wake of the July 3 overthrow of Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's Islamist president, by the country's military, two of Florida's most conservative congressmen are offering cautious support for the new regime, even as they insist the U.S. needs to reconsider its foreign aid policy.
Florida's Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, the most senior Republican woman in U.S. House and the chairwoman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, was unavailable for comment Friday.
I think it's great that the people of Egypt have risen up to overthrow a Muslim Brotherhood government that's wanting to enact a sharia-law type of government, U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., tells Sunshine State News, referring to the traditional Islamic legal system that politically subjugates women and non-Muslims. My hopes are that the people of Egypt will continue forward with their march toward liberty and freedom, and I look forward to allying ourselves with anybody that believes in our democratic principles.
His words are echoed by fellow GOP freshman Rep. Trey Radel.
I want Egypt to have a free society with free elections Radel tells SSN. Ultimately, the Egyptians know what's best for Egypt.
The head of Egypts armed forces, Gen. Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi, announced the military coup Wednesday after five days of massive anti-Morsi demonstrations in Cairo, Alexandria, and other cities. Replacing Morsi is Adly Mansour, a jurist who heads Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court.
The congressmen, who both sit on the U.S. House's Foreign Affairs Committee, tell SSN they see no contradiction between their support for liberal democracy and their tentative endorsement of Sisi's actions, which appear to reflect the will of large segments of the Egyptian people.
They were elected democratically [in 2012], Yoho admits of the Muslim Brotherhood, an international political movement whose goal is the establishment of a worldwide Islamist theocracy. They went in there with certain promises with what they were going to do, but the economy in Egypt has dropped backward, the human rights violations have stepped up: there have been more arrests in Egypt in this one year than there was under a certain period of time under [socialist dictator Hosni] Mubarak.
The people of Egypt don't want to go backward, and I commend them for having the fortitude to step up and say, 'We're not going there.' ... I hope it stays, for the most part, a peaceful transition.
Radel concurs, noting that [the Brotherhood] may have been democratically elected; however, Morsi immediately changed the [Egyptian] constitution, began cracking down on the press, and then he began cracking down on any political opposition, violently.
Barack Obama, whose administration has supported the Morsi government, militarily and financially, as the democratic voice of the Egyptian people, has expressed concern over the circumstances of the Egyptian leader's deposition, and has suggested he would be reconsidering the millions of dollars in U.S. foreign aid to the country.
Yoho and Radel concur with that appraisal, if for different reasons.
With the megaphone that the president has, he should be telling the Egyptian people that they have two choices, Radel proposes. Live with free speech, freedom of religion, a free press, free and fair elections, and we'll be there to help. If not if you choose the path that other Islamic countries have chosen, where they have an Islamist-run government, led by clerics we will not stand by your side and we will not support you in any way, shape, or form.
Yoho says he would suspend all foreign aid until we see the outcome of this, and make its re-institution dependent on the new government's promot[ing] the basic tenets that we [Americans] believe in as a democracy: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, human rights for all people: men and women and children.
Both lawmakers agree that aid has its place in U.S. foreign policy. Radel, though a self-styled fiscal conservative hawk, insists it's naive to just think that we're going to pack up our bags and just leave the rest of the world, citing Israel and Colombia as examples of free, prosperous countries where American foreign aid had yielded returns on investment.
But Yoho's slightly more skeptical.
I want to get away from foreign aid, especially at this time in our country when I'm getting letters from constituents because they're being furloughed because of sequestration, he tells SSN. But I am for assistance in the form of teaching [Egyptians] how to build and run a business, teaching them the free-enterprise system, but let's get away from giving money to buy cooperation.
Our foreign policy over the last 35 to 40 years has been a disaster, he continues. I've asked the experts to name one place in the Middle East where our foreign policy has gotten the desired results, and they can't name one.
Reach Eric Giunta at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 954-235-9116.