A reader writes:

I just read your post on "Aid to Egypt" and I'm having trouble understanding a few things:

1) What is the rationale for measuring the appropriateness of military support to a foreign ally on a per capita basis? Do more populous nations need more protection than less populous ones?

2) In what sense is Egypt a military ally of the United States, other than its relatively warm relationship to Israel? To what US military operations do they contribute troops or material? What other US foreign policy aim do they further? If the “Israel lobby” has a distortive effect on US foreign policy (a point I neither concede nor deny), isn't Egypt a beneficiary of that?

I have to confess my bias while I am often skeptical of Israel’s government and its policies, discussions of the “Israel lobby” often leave me wondering why there are so many measures and standards that seem to come into play solely for the purpose of critiquing Israel. Or did I miss the heated debate on The Daily Dish about why the U.S. provides military aid to Colombia, but not similarly populous Tanzania?

1) The per capita thing isn't that salient, but it does illustrate just how massive a commitment the US does have militarily to Israel, something that must indeed complicate diplomatic outreach to Israel's enemies, if the US is trying to appear as an honest and neutral broker in the region. Much of the spending, it bears noting, is restricted to purchases from US military companies - essentially folding Israel's defense into the American arms industry. If we think the Arabs and Persians are unaware of this, we are deluding ourselves.

2) Point taken.

Egypt receives what amount to massive permanent bribes from the US to maintain peace with Israel - much of which was set years ago by the Camp David accords. Military aid to Israel and Egypt seems odd after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In fact, the Cold War assumptions of much of US policy toward the Middle East need serious re-thinking, no? But, like most government programs, the massive aid to these two countries becomes permanent, regardless of the rationale.

The final point is obvious. The Middle East is far more integral to US security than Africa or South America, as long as we are hooked on carbon-based energy supplies. It's also a very volatile region where we have 140,000 troops still stabilizing Iraq. Getting out of Iraq, and finding some kind of non-military solution to Iran's nukes, and pacifying Afghanistan ... all this means talking to a lot of actors for whom Israel's occupation of the West Bank is a big deal and who see Israel as an extension of America and America as therefore an enemy of Islam. If we are to change course, and make some accommodatioun with these forces (the alternative is an endless, costly war in that region) we will need to change our relationship with Israel away from the "Jump! How High?" approach of the Bush years. 

The total roll-over to the Gaza assault and the swift nixing of any Arabist in intelligence seem to me to be worrying signs that no change will occur. And I think change is necessary - change, I might add, that should in no way endanger Israel's existence.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.