The least we owe to the Egyptian people is to stop supporting their repression. That does not mean cutting foreign aid. On the contrary, though foreign aid will not by itself transform Egypt’s society or economy, and though some of it will inevitably be wasted and fall into the wrong hands, it can still do some good. More important, the US and the international community can work to ensure that the bulk of the funds go not to the military and to business-as-usual politicians, but to grassroots causes and groups.
In fact, foreign aid can also be used as a small inducement for national dialogue in Egypt. For example, foreign aid could be placed under the stewardship of a committee of representatives from different social factions, including the civil-society groups at the center of the uprising and the Muslim Brotherhood, with the clear understanding that if the committee fails to agree, the aid will not be disbursed. This would force the military and the elites to work together with opposition groups that they often attempt to sideline.
Beyond bringing important but politically marginalized groups to the table, such a committee might also produce a demonstration effect, with successful power-sharing in a small setting possibly encouraging power-sharing writ large. That may not be the sort of outside intervention that could cure the ills of centuries of repression and underdevelopment overnight, but “we” need to stop searching for a non-existent panacea, and instead do something better than feeding the Egyptian military.