Paul Jacob

The head honcho of the most populous country in North Africa ranks a respectable fourth on the list of world rulers graciously accepting the $58 billion in foreign aid fleeced annually from American taxpayers. (Would you be surprised to learn that taxpayers are sending $12.9 million annually in aid to China? Or $68.7 million to Russia? Or $20 million to Cuba?)

Now, as the protests swell and there’s more than a whiff of revolution, President Obama and Mrs. Clinton scramble to “look busy” and pontificate on the unfolding situation. Yesterday’s Washington Post played along, headlining one story “Obama warns against violence, urges Cairo to institute reforms.”

No call for the dictator to step down, mind you, but the Egyptian crowds facing water cannons, Billy-clubs, bullets and tear gas — with canisters labeled “Made in the USA” — are no doubt inspired by these rhetorical flourishes.

Soon, if evil finds its deserved comeuppance, Mubarek will be gone. And yet some Americans will claim surprise if the new Egyptian government sees the United States as an enemy.

Others Arab dictatorships funded and supported by the U.S. will and should fall. The sooner the better. And we are likely to have more enemies.

So in order to make the world safe for democracy, to see American interests prevail, shall we hope that the jackboot stamps down the voice of the blogger and the student for years to come . . . forever?

Strange that Mr. Obama hasn’t recognized this as a teachable moment. Now that we’re broke, shouldn’t we stop going deeper into debt to finance dictatorships of the right, left and in-between?

Some argue that Americans must support despots to block more serious threats. They forget that freedom and democracy must continually win the hearts and minds of the world’s people. To constantly wed our foreign policy to the thumb-screw can only breed enemies from people who should be our friends. Empowering the lesser of two apparent evils in every instance means that America’s face to the world can appear most clearly as one thing: Evil.

Talk about the wrong message, the wrong stance.

American entrepreneurs deserve enormous credit for the tools — the Internet, the cell phone and social media — by which Egyptians have been organizing their rebellion . . . that is, until the regime pulled the plug days ago. It’s too bad these free enterprise innovations are overshadowed by our official national policy of supporting dictatorship. May the Egyptian people be forgiving of the U.S. government role in their current suffering.

Let’s hope this is a revolution in Egypt. For their sake. And for our sake, we need a new and far less costly foreign policy of not aiding and abetting tyranny.

And we need political leaders with the eye-sight and courage to recognize a dictator when they see one.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.