Tunisian president Kais Saied’s lurch toward authoritarianism since his July 25, 2021, power grab has led many in the United States and Tunisia to advocate for a cut-off of all U.S. assistance. However, even if suspending assistance is emotionally gratifying, it is unlikely to change Saied’s autocratic practices. Equally important, cutting off assistance altogether would not serve U.S. interests or help the Tunisian people. Instead, the United States should use its bilateral assistance—and its influence in international financial institutions—to further its core interests in Tunisia: security and democracy.
Henry Kissinger famously, and some might say cynically, once observed that America has no permanent friends or enemies—only interests. Security and democracy are the two primary U.S. interests in Tunisia. Both transcend Tunisia’s borders, which is why they are important and why the United States should continue related assistance programs.
The above excerpt was originally published in The National Interest.
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