One frequent charge seems pointedly unfair, as prominent voices on the right cite an allegedly embarrassing contrast between President Obama’s feckless, feeble backing for the 2009 “Green Revolution” protests against our enemies in Iran, while purportedly providing much stronger backing for the similar demonstrations against our allies in Egypt.
In truth, Obama used almost identical words in both cases – expressing meaningless support for the “democratic aspirations” of the protesters, and warning the authoritarian regimes not to repress peaceful demonstrators with violence or brutality. The Mullahs in Iran cheerfully ignored his noble words: with no embassy in Teheran and few business interests anywhere in the country, we hardly exert powerful influence on the Islamic Republic. Egypt, on the other hand, has long been awash with American aid dollars, intelligence agents, embassy personnel and businessmen, so the Mubarak minions have (so far) felt largely constrained from expressing their rage against the opposition. Moreover, the administration showed more consistency in its response to the two crises than most conservatives recognize.
In reacting to the street-fighting in Iran, the president and his henchmen seemed hesitant, confused, contradictory, oddly arrogant, self-righteous and utterly incompetent.
In responding to the regime-shaking earthquake in Egypt, meanwhile, the Obamanauts looked hesitant, confused, contradictory, preposterously arrogant, self-righteous and altogether incompetent.
Their sloppy handling of the Cairo crisis at least seems more comprehensible.
In Teheran, one could easily separate the good guys (westernized young people singing hopeful songs and chanting democratic slogans) from the bad guys (angry, bearded thugs with clubs and guns, yelling “Death to America!” and pledging to shed their own blood for their Ayatollahs).
Even after weeks of unrest, Egypt stubbornly yields no comparable clarity, and the administration’s herky-jerky pronouncements (which often resemble a diplomatic version of Tourette’s Syndrome) provide little assistance.
It may take months or even years to see a decisive resolution of the pyrotechnics by the Pyramids and by that time the American public most likely will have exhausted our limited attention span, losing interest in a wearying, tough-to-follow reality show with few attractive or wholly sympathetic contestants and no satisfying conclusion.