So here you have it. Many of the young folks who made the 2011 revolution, like Ziada, are openly supporting the military. Partly that’s from fear of Islamicization. It’s also from recognition that they were never as well-organized as the Brotherhood, and might not have been able to beat them at the next polls.
But Egyptian hostility to the aid cutoff has broader roots. The young, secular activists who organized the massive anti-Morsi demonstrations this summer are not liberals. Their Tamarod (rebel) movement reveres Gamal Abdel Nasser, the wildly popular leftist military dictator of the 1960s.
In hopes of finding a new Nasser, a group of Tamarod leaders has just endorsed el-Sissi (now the defense minister) as their presidential candidate.
Egypt is yearning for a hero, and many ordinary people think only a strongman can restore stability and the economy. So Sissi-mania is on the rise, along with a wave of Egyptian nationalism. In this climate, the U.S. aid cutoff can be used to whip up anti-Americanism and build support for a new strongman.
To summarize: The aid cutoff won’t resonate with the bulk of Egyptians who love el-Sissi, want stability, and now disdain the Brotherhood. The military, which views the Brothers as an existential threat, won’t agree to let them back into the political system.
That’s apart from the security interests the administration shares with the Egyptian military — maintaining the peace treaty with Israel and repressing the terror threat in the Sinai.
It makes little sense for U.S. legislators to press for inclusive democracy in Egypt at a moment when most Egyptians reject the concept. Better to focus on making democracy work at home.