Things are going from bad to worse in Egypt.

Secretary of State John Kerry (Cliff Owne/Associated Press)

On Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke out publicly, as the Associated Press reported:

He says the government in Cairo has very real choices to make about improving Egypt’s economy and moving the transition forward.

Kerry says the U.S. has “real concerns about the direction Egypt appears to be moving in” but hopes it’s not too late for the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government to turn the corner.

Kerry’s comment Tuesday came after Egyptian authorities stepped up a campaign against a popular TV comedian accused of insulting the president.

The problems extend far beyond the latest human rights violation. Zvi Mazel, former  Israeli ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden, warns:

For the Muslim Brotherhood, the long awaited dream come true is turning into a nightmare. Having survived 80 years of persecution to achieve power democratically, they suddenly find themselves the focus of widespread popular hatred.

Never have Egyptians been in such dire economic traits. . . .

Such is the depth of the economic, social and political crisis that the threat of civil war appears all too real.

Even more ominous, he says, is that “[f]or the first time since Nasser ruled, the army academy is no longer refusing Islamic candidates.” Add to that widespread civil disobedience, rising violence, political repression and depletion of foreign reserves and you have a regime teetering on the brink of chaos. (“Investors have fled, tourists are scared. Hunger riots may not be far off. Yet the Brotherhood surges blindly on, not ready to let go of the golden prize achieved after nearly a century. And so the standoff goes on between the regime and the opposition, while quicksand threatens to engulf them all.”)

The United States does not want Egypt to explode or a prolonged civil war and the ensuing civilian suffering and regional upheaval. But is it really in our interests to see the Muslim Brotherhood “succeed” — that is, remain in power through political repression and without tending to the economic needs of the country? After all, a colossal failure of Muslim Brotherhood rule in the most populous and arguably most important Arab country would not, to be blunt, be a bad thing for U.S. interests, democracy and stability. This is all the more so if there are better alternatives. (“In a remarkable and enduring show of unity, non-Islamic opposition parties under the banner of the National Salvation Front are boycotting the regime until their demands –- canceling the Islamic constitution and setting up a consensus government until new elections are held –- are met.”)

Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams argues:

In truth we do not know nor will we have any say in what is next for Egypt if and when citizens conclude that the Brotherhood cannot deliver the freedom or the economic progress that Egyptians appeared to seek when they drove Hosni Mubarak from power. Disorder is possible; a new dictatorship may arise; the Army may take power; or Egypt may become an Arab Pakistan, where the Army rules behind the facade of civilian politicians.

Egyptians and not we will determine all of this, so the best we can do–and it is important that we do this–is to stand for our own principles of freedom of speech, press, assembly, trade unions, religion, and free elections.

In short, there is no reason to give unconditional aid or diplomatic cover to President Mohamed Morsi. Our consistent support should be for the rule of law, freedom for civil institutions, respect for minorities and women, and responsible international behavior (e.g. upholding Egypt’s treaty obligations with Israel). Whoever can deliver all that should have our support; and in the absence of Morsi demonstrating that he is willing and able to support such aims, we should — how does the phrase go? — ah, put some daylight between the United States and Egypt.