On Saturday, the Wall Street Journal devoted a fascinating article by David Feith that included an interview with the heroic Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky (Rick Richman has a nice post on Sharansky here).
Sharansky’s comments on Egypt are intelligent and insightful, as you would expect. And on U.S. policy, Sharansky says that, on Egypt, “the statements from the White House are improving with every day, especially in comparison with its catastrophic statements at the time of the Iranian revolution [in 2009].” In Sharansky’s opinion, the Obama administration’s position during the recent Iranian protests was “maybe one of the biggest betrayals of people’s freedom in modern history. … At the moment when millions were deciding whether to go to the barricades, the leader of the free world said ‘For us, the most important thing is engagement with the regime, so we don’t want a change of regime.’ Compared to this, there is very big progress [on Egypt today].”
That sounds right to me. The most favorable interpretation of events is that President Obama has learned in office and is now willing to show solidarity with movements for political liberation and human rights that he was silent on as recently as a year and a half ago. The least favorable interpretation is that he is more inclined to support revolutionary movements when its target is a pro-American regime (at least in some respects); when the object of contempt is a malevolent, anti-American one like Iran, Obama goes mute. For now, I’ll choose the more favorable interpretation. Down the road, there will undoubtedly be events to test whether that judgment is the right one.