I agree, Lois, about the amounts of money we spend on various countries around the world. I have known for years that we have been supporting a number of governments over there with huge amounts of money. I rather doubt that the $1.5 billion Egypt gets each year is the sum total. And getting rid of it will be a real challenge. One of the news reports speculated that the one group Mubarak could count on was the military because he made sure they were well equipped, well paid and generally well taken care of. Given that the U.S. is the largest arms dealer in the world, I have to wonder how much of our foreign aid is given in military equipment or is given knowing that the money will be used to buy our equipment. Quite a bit I would think. Think of the dent in the budgets of, especially, red states whose economies are heavily supported by the 'military-industrial complex' if that stream of cash were interrupted. Egypt some, very few, news reports noted is second only to Israel in the amount of foreign aid received from the U.S. I wouldn't doubt, but haven't seen any listings, that Saudi Arabia is not far behind.
I read some interesting posts over the weekend that present ideas about the Egyptian situation that have not made it into the mainstream press. Most of us forget that all of Egypt's presidents since the army overthrew the monarchy in the 1950s have been military officers: Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak. The army hasn't played a very prominent role in Egypt very often; it doesn't need to since the presidents have all had close ties to the army. Mubarak had been grooming his son to replace him but Gamal Mubarak doesn't have the kind of ties to the army that his father has had. The army has been conspicuously restrained in its handling of the demonstrations, although that may be changing if the early morning news is any indication. The only significant change has been Mubarak's appointment of his former security chief, who has close ties to the military, as his vice president (and presumed successor). Mubarak has steadfastly refused to name a vice president in all his thirty years in power--until now. It makes me wonder if the senior army officers haven't decided that the time has come to make sure that Mubarak's successor is someone they approve. If so, I can see a continuation of the same old, same old. No liberalization, no democratization. And we will support it.
Considering that the political turmoil in Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Sudan and Yemen stem most directly from rising food and fuel prices, this story (and others like it which don't find their way into the mainstream media) should spark our interest. It is nice that the futures prices of grains are expected to fall about 5% over the year but that is after a rise of 50+% over this last year. I have noticed that our news media have devoted more time to food inflation over here but I have not noticed anyone connecting the dots. What dots, you ask? Weather (droughts, floods, severe storms) to lowered crop yields to higher prices to political turmoil. Those dots. Oh, I almost forgot! Recent failures of Monsanto's GM corn and cotton in several countries which, of course, Monsanto says was not its fault.