Via Victor Davis Hanson at NRO.
Across the Middle East, millions are rebelling against their poverty and lack of freedom, blaming their corrupt leaders, who have ransacked their countries’ treasuries and natural wealth. The objects of vituperation, then, are particular individual autocrats. Few in fits of introspection blame endemic cultural practices such as tribalism, gender apartheid, and religious intolerance as equally responsible for the general misery. A Mubarak, Qaddafi, Ben Ali, King Abdullah, or Assad is thus not a natural expression of a society’s collective values and customs, but supposedly an aberration, and one forced upon Middle Easterners by an array of often sinister foreign interests.
So sometimes the object of protests is a pro-American autocrat, sometimes an anti-American totalitarian. The proverbial “people” are rebelling against juntas, monarchs, collectivized tyrannies, theocrats, and run-of-the-mill dictatorships. No one knows whether new promised plebiscites will lead to constitutional governments or, as in the Iran of 1979–82, a new round of dictatorship. No one knows, either, whether an unbridled Arab Street might in fact prove more illiberal than the old illiberal rulers. All hope that the Westernized voices on the BBC and CNN are in fact speaking for the fist-shaking mobs in the street.
In such a mess, the challenge for America should have been to prod pro-American authoritarians to reform (but not to abdicate), to support staunchly our very few democratic friends, to oppose publicly anti-American totalitarians, and wherever possible to stay out of intervening militarily, given that no resistance group as of yet has proved democratic, or indeed has even published much of a liberal reform manifesto.
Instead, the Obama administration has done exactly the opposite in every case.
There are two, and only two, democratic states in the region: Israel and Iraq. The Obama administration has serially pressured the former and cannot refer to the latter without expressing regret or apology for the conditions that led to the present constitutional government. The message seems to be that pro-American democracies are either taken for granted or actively distrusted.
There are also as of now only two regimes that have collapsed: pro-American and autocratic Egypt and Tunisia. Once we saw protests against these regimes explode, the administration joined in the calls for Mr. Mubarak and Mr. Ben Ali to step down. Both did, and we understandably rejoiced at the chance of something more constitutional. Yet it is not clear what or who their replacements will be, much less whether they will be any more liberal and transparent….
……Libya should have been a no-brainer. Qaddafi is a past murderer of Americans, who had held an iron grip on his oil-rich, people-sparse country for 41 years. Widespread revolt erupted spontaneously, and Qaddafi seemed a goner — in a flat, desert Mediterranean country that was made to order for short-mission NATO air strikes. But the temptation to pile on proved too much for the Obama administration — given the criticism that Obama had been late in giving a final push to Mubarak and Ben Ali, given that the French and British were, mirabile dictu, to be leading the military intervention, and given that both the Arab League and the U.N. were are on record as advocating a no-fly zone. So we intervened precipitately and did not ask who or what the rebels were, did not ponder whether a no-fly zone would have much effect on Qaddafi’s chances, did not explain whether the mission was to remove the Qaddafi clan or to save the rebels from obliteration, or both, and did not question whether the NATO allies had the desire and means to force Qaddafi out without our constant, active participation.
Outside of Iraq and Israel, we should realize that the rest of the countries in the Middle East are not our friends. We should take each one of them with a grain of salt; pay close attention to the groups and organizations behind the protests. It’s not in the nature of muslims to encourage democracy over an a theocracy run by clerics who preach hate, terrorism, and Sharia law in the name of allah.
Encourage democracy where the chance exists, but keep in mind, these revolutions may produce worse regimes than the last.
Obama’s handling of the Middle East crisis is par for his inept course. His socialist ideology precludes promoting America’s interests. He’s out of his league. He lacks leadership and the ability to see where America fits in the world stage. This will not end well.