The riddle of the sands
Michele Dunne at Harvard looks at Bush's brief stop in Egypt, where "Bush seemed to try to compensate for the shortness of his stop with the fullness of his public statement, a virtual tour d’horizon of the U.S.-Egyptian relationship." One of her commenters, former US Ambassador to Egypt Dan Kurtzer rhetorically asks, "Is Egypt still “worth the money?” This requires a more thoughtful discussion than a few lines of comment, but the short answer for now is 'yes.'" The more interesting question is why.
The obvious reasons for Egypt's importance are geopolitical. Egypt shares a border with Israel. It's cooperation with the war on terrorism and any Palestinian deal are probably paramount. But there is a downside.
In April, 2007 the University of Maryland surveyed attitudes in four Islamic countries, Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan and Indonesia as part of an effort to measure the effect of the War on Terror on perceptions in these countries. Here's a sample of the results of various questions.
Views of the US government
The US Should Withdraw Forces From Islamic Countries
Approve on attacks on US troops in Iraq
Approve on attacks on US troops in Afghanistan
What's really striking about these figures is that Egypt, which is an American "ally", the end product of sophisticated diplomacy, the recipient of lavish aid apparently hates America worst of all. Going by the figures the US may be more popular in Iraq (as per a BBC poll) and Pakistan (where there is US campaign against the Taliban right across the border) than in Egypt or Morocco.
One of the challenges in maintaining objectively important US relations with vital countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia is finding ways to achieve this without being completely tarnished by association with an unpopular and sometimes hated local leader.