The military coup that toppled former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi's Islamist government has proven as destructive to the nation's hopes of democracy as the regime it replaced.
In a government-backed bloodbath Wednesday on the streets of Cairo, government forces demolished two camps set up by pro-Morsi demonstrators.
Hundreds were killed and thousands injured when soldiers fired live rounds into crowds of civilians, snipers targeted protesters and pro-Morsi militants killed police officers and others.
As too often is the case, President Barack Obama's response Thursday morning was timid. Again, the president stopped short of naming the takeover and crackdown a coup, and did not use what little leverage he has to ward off more carnage.
While Obama canceled joint military exercises planned for next month with Egypt's military, he did nothing to remind its leaders of the $1.3 billion in military aid the United States dispenses to Egypt every year.
The stakes in Egypt are too high for the United States to tiptoe around its heavy-handed involvement in arming what has turned out to be yet another repressive regime.
In his remarks, the president condemned Wednesday's violence but warned that the U.S. should avoid becoming too entangled in Egypt's latest upheaval: "America cannot determine the future of Egypt. That's a task for the Egyptian people," he said.
"We want Egypt to succeed. We want a peaceful, democratic, prosperous Egypt. That's our interest. But to achieve that, the Egyptians are going to have to do the work," Obama added.
The Egyptian military's actions have shown in horrifying detail that American dollars are indeed at work in Egypt. Less clear is whether any of the aid is being used to support, as President Obama said Thursday, "a future of stability (in Egypt) that rests on a foundation of justice and peace and dignity."
In response to the massacres, Egyptian Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei tendered his resignation Wednesday, writing, "It has become difficult for me to continue bearing responsibility for decisions that I do not agree with and whose consequences I fear."
Pro-Morsi demonstrators bear their share of responsibility for the rapidly deteriorating situation across Egypt. Supporters of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood have burned Coptic churches, destroyed government buildings and engaged in murderous street fights with Morsi's opponents.
But the escalation of violence by the ruling military government only dims Egypt's hope for representative government and radicalizes Egyptians on all sides of this conflict.
Martyrs are being made in the streets of Cairo. That creates the potential for outside jihadists to move in and exploit the situation as they have in Syria. As Israeli-Palestinian peace talks tenuously reboot in Jerusalem, the prospect of prolonged civil war in Egypt could further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa and embolden a splintered al-Qaida. The stakes could not be higher.
The United States' financial support of Egypt's military has shown little ability to curb the interim government's abuse of its citizens. Aid can be as much a carrot as a stick, and President Obama has to be willing to use it as such.