I'm trying to understand the takeaway from the big New York Times Sunday front-pager about corrupt use of American aid money by the Egyptian military. The story is about how American money found its way into various for-profit ventures that had the effect of enriching individuals within the military, rather than...but that's where the story, at least to me, ran into trouble.
What's missing from the story is the context of all those billions of dollars of military aid. What did the US want in return? Certainly not a stronger Egyptian military! It's hard to see any advantage to American foreign policy if Egypt took that money and efficiently built a military juggernaut.
The real reason for US aid to Egypt, of course, was as part of the deal surrounding the peace agreements with Israel. To be blunt: the US was bribing the powers-that-be in Egypt (that is, the military) to sign and observe a peace treaty.
Assuming that basic deal made sense for the United States, it's not entirely clear to me that it matters very much to the US where the money goes. What matters, most of all, is that Egypt stays bought. Granted, tons of money being funneled into a nation may do all sorts of odd things to its institutions...but that's probably going to be true regardless of how efficiently (or cleanly) the money is spent.
Or maybe not; perhaps funding personal benefits for those at the top is more problematic (for Egyptians? for US policy?) than the "intended" use of the money would be. But the context here is really important, I think. Personally, however, I think I'd rather have all that money wasted on a fleet of private luxury jets than spent on fighters and bombers.
(Note: the link to the Times story wasn't working, for me at least; I'll update if needed)