Okay, this is the moment we have been waiting for: the freedom agenda is sweeping the Middle East (here and here). I only wish we could feel more certain that the Obama administration has the maturity to deal with this time of vast potential. Revolutions can turn out well (American) or lead to terror (French, Iranian).
Rich Richman captures the twists and turns in our hapless administration’s response to this crucial moment:
The Bastille has fallen in Egypt, but it will be more difficult to create a constitutional democracy than it was in France in 1789 – and France did not do such a great job itself, as I recall. I knew Louis XVI; Louis XVI was a friend of mine; and Hosni Mubarak was no Louis XVI – he was a U.S. ally, welcomed at the White House a few months ago, praised by President Obama at that time as one of our “key partners.” A few months later, he was on par with Saddam Hussein.
With mass demonstrations against a tyrannical Iranian regime that stole a presidential election, Obama kept silent. When the military removed the president in Honduras pursuant to a judicial order and legislative ratification, Obama called it a coup. When the military removed the Egyptian president months before a scheduled election in which the president had pledged not to run again, Obama supported the removal as essential for freedom. There must be a coherent foreign policy in there somewhere.
It was good to hear Vice President Joe Biden belatedly giving the Iranian mullahs hell, but one feels that the Obama administration is scrambling to “get on the right side of history,” whatever that means, and is more a candle in the wind than a beacon of hope. (Another post on Commentary quotes Middle Eastern expert Fouad Ajami , who has cited George W. Bush’s “paternity” of recent developments. Bush was always clear; Obama less so.)
I am always glad to see a dictator fall-don’t get me wrong. But I find it pathetic that, while Obama could shove Hosni Mubarak, he couldn’t bring himself in 2009 to shove the government of Iran. We don’t know what the Egyptian revolution holds for the future; I think we could have been pretty sure that in Iran, where people have lived under Islamic tyranny, the result of that revolt was not going to be more of the same.
I want to note one other thing. The New York Times had direct quotes from conversations with President Obama and Hosni Mubarak. It was clear that the administration wanted these conversations published (I guess it’s okay to reveal you diplomatic phone conversations if they are with an unpopular figure?):
The officials said the hardest of those conversations came on Tuesday, Feb. 1, barely an hour after Mr. Mubarak announced he would not run for president again. In Mr. Obama’s view, Mr. Mubarak still had not gone far enough. Describing the conversation, one senior official quoted Mr. Obama as telling the Egyptian president, “It is time to present to the people of Egypt its next government.” He added, “The future of your country is at stake.”
Mr. Mubarak replied, “Let’s talk in the next three or four days.” He added, “And when we talk, you will find that I was right.” The two men never talked again.
Now it is clear why the administration wanted this known-it’s the attempt to present themselves as being on the right side of history. The president, you see, was always with the people in the streets, the people making history. He talked tough to Mubarak. But look again at the leaked conversation: it shows a president who commands little respect. Don’t call me, I’ll call you, Barak.