“Short of Money, Egypt Sees Crisis on Fuel and Food” is the headline of David Kirkpatrick’s dispatch running the length of the right-hand column of Sunday’s New York Times. Two years after Egypt’s impending economic disasterbecame apparent, it leads the liberal newspaper of broken record. As Kirkpatrick belatedly observes:
Egypt is running out of the hard currency it needs for fuel imports. The shortage is raising questions about Egypt’s ability to keep importing wheat that is essential to subsidized bread supplies, stirring fears of an economic catastrophe at a time when the government is already struggling to quell violent protests by its political rivals. Farmers already lack fuel for the pumps that irrigate their fields, and they say they fear they will not have enough for the tractors to reap their wheat next month before it rots in the fields.
The American foreign policy consensus is riding a dying horse. The Obama administration’s hopes for Muslim democracy have run up against reality, along with the illusions of the Republican mainstream. As recently as March 8, Charles Krauthammer, the pundit who gave the name “democratic realism” to these illusions, argued that “we should not cut off aid to Egypt,” that “we should remain engaged,” because “there is nothing inevitable about [Muslim] Brotherhood rule.” That is true, strictly speaking. Egypt’s military might seize power, but that’s not what Krauthammer meant. The trouble is that Washington is still arguing about the disposition of deck chairs on a Saharan version of the Titanic. The question is, rather: How do we deal with a Middle East in which social chaos becomes the new normal?