An Egyptian democracy advocate, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, writes:
One year after President Barack Obama’s highly celebrated speech in Cairo supporting Arab democracy, there is a clear and loud expression of disappointment in the region.
The pathological fear of Islamists coming to power if there were free and fair elections seems to have served Arab dictators well. Although Mr. Obama himself made it clear in Cairo that he does not believe the proposition of incompatibility between Islam and democracy, his administration has clearly opted for a policy favoring regional stability over democratic governance.
Ibrahim reminds us of the list of Obama’s sins of omission regarding Egypt — quietude on the extension of the emergency election laws and slashing of funding for democracy promotion. We can add to that the administration’s muteness on the abuse of Coptic women. And for those on the left, Ibrahim twists the knife:
George W. Bush is missed by activists in Cairo and elsewhere who—despite possible misgivings about his policies in Iraq and Afghanistan—benefited from his firm stance on democratic progress. During the time he kept up pressure on dictators, there were openings for a democratic opposition to flourish. The current Obama policy seems weak and inconsistent by contrast.
Really, who has better claim to being the president of hope and change in the Middle East — the one who liberated Iraq from tyranny and pledged to do the same for Afghanistan, harped on democracy, and refused the entreaties of dictators to shove human rights under the bus, or the one who can’t manage to utter a syllable of criticism of child brides, honor killings, religious persecution (which an ambassador at large would presumably comment on, if Obama had appointed one), and political repression in the region’s Muslim states — and who declines to consider regime change in Iran?