arms sales to buttress their prestige and to support local patronage networks, both of which help to sustain their dominant position in domestic politics. Egypt’s procurement of over 1,000 M1A1 Abrams tanks, for instance, has less to do with their military value than with the Egyptian jobs supported by a co-production plant in country. The Egyptian Armed Forces have so far opted not to deploy M1A1s in combat in the restive Sinai Peninsula. In his State of the Union address, President Trump endorsed “legislation to help ensure American foreign-assistance dollars always serve American interests, and only go to America’s friends.” But even when this assistance goes to America’s friends, it rarely serves American interests. Decisions to sell weapons to allies, friends, and partners often involve hand-waving and intellectual laziness. It is unusual when clear objectives with measurable benchmarks of progress are identified for weapons sales and assistance levels. Instead, proponents of these sales invoke tired bromides about how assistance will provide access to the recipient’s military leadership or further cement the bilateral relationship. But access should not be confused with influence—and “relationship maintenance” should not be treated as an end in itself. Washington has become so fixated on doling out billions of dollars for this purpose that it often forgets what this assistance is for in the first place: securing U.S. interests. More often than not, our allies and client states take the money and use their weapons in pursuit of policies inimical to U.S. interests or kvetch about American unreliability. Saudi Arabia, which has used American-supplied weapons to visit ruin on Yemen and strengthen Jihadist groups there, is a poster child for this phenomenon. So, too, is the UAE, which is an accomplice in Riyadh’s immoral and strategically disastrous campaign in Yemen and used American-supplied weapons in Libya in support of a renegade general. A second and related problem is that the U.S. government does a poor job of holding allies and clients to account for behavior that runs counter to American interests. There is no systematic review of what U.S. military assistance accomplishes. The key questions that rarely get asked, let alone answered, are what does the U.S. want and expect from the assistance we provide and how does this aid help or hurt America’s ability to achieve these goals? If the U.S. cannot identify actions that the recipient would not have otherwise taken as a result of this assistance, then it is nothing more than a welfare program, and has two pernicious effects. First, it encourages “moral hazard”—recipients to do whatever they want with the assistance without having to fear the consequences of their actions. Second, it creates “reverse leverage”— Washington bends over backwards to keep relations smooth and the assistance flowing, rather than leverage the recipient’s dependence on U.S. military support and political commitments. Both of these pathologies are, in part, a legacy of the Middle East peace process. The Arab countries at peace
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- Fall '11
- Cards, Debate, Aff, President of the United States, United States armed forces, Military of the United States, neg, Foreign policy of the United States, military aid, Full Cards