WASHINGTON -- For days after protests started in Cairo, the Obama administration struggled to find its voice about the "revolution" in Egypt. When the O-Team eventually decided Hosni Mubarak had to go, the White House and the State Department began chattering about a "democratic outcome." In the end, they settled for a military coup while proclaiming a "victory for the people." Now, with violent anti-government protests in the streets of Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Iran, President Barack Obama's moral ambiguity is increasingly evident -- and dangerous.
The current predicament of what to do and say about the increasingly volatile situation in the Middle East is the direct consequence of totally inadequate intelligence and Obama's own vague Utopian goals for the region. It has been that way since the beginning of his tenure.
On Jan. 27, 2009, a week after his inaugural, the president went on Al Arabiya television to apologize for past errors and omission by his predecessors. Obama said he was "communicating a message to the Arab world and the Muslim world, that we are ready to initiate a new partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interest." He said nothing about "regime change" anywhere in the region.
Four months later, during his June 4 "New Beginning" lecture at Cairo University, Obama reiterated his regrets for past "conflict," "tension" and "mistrust" between "Islam and the West." Included in the seven "issues" he said "we have to confront" was a bland, brief mention of democracy. He introduced the topic by observing: "I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: No system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other." Whatever that means, he went on to promise the U.S. "will welcome all elected, peaceful governments -- provided they govern with respect for all their people."
Just 10 days after his Cairo address, tens of thousands of Iranians took to the streets disputing the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of the Islamic republic. Obama, wedded to his oft-repeated pledge to meet with Tehran's theocratic leaders "without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect," was mute for a week before calling for all sides to "reject violence." The ayatollahs responded by brutally suppressing the protests, rejecting Obama's naive call for direct "face-to-face negotiations," and reasserted their intent to continue refining nuclear materiel in violation of international law and despite threats of U.N. sanctions.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.