The Obama administration at first announced that Hosni Mubarak was not, and then was, a dictator. It then declared, in temporizing Jimmy Carter fashion, that he should have left yesterday, now, soon or in the fall. The Muslim Brotherhood was said to be variously suspect, not violent, a needed player in the transition -- or apparently all that and more. Finally, we just shut up and assumed that the military coup that threw out Mubarak, suspended the constitution and quieted the demonstrators would transition to consensual government -- without installing another military strongman or allowing the Muslim Brotherhood to hijack the Egyptian revolution Iranian-style.
For too long, Obama stayed quiet as Muammar Gaddafi slaughtered Libyans with tanks and artillery. A cynic might have concluded from Obama's weak, "make no mistake about it" sermons that if a ruthless regime kills its own, hates America and bars the press, the United States will appear indifferent. In contrast, if the strongman is more pro-American, allows protests, and lets in the BBC and CNN, then he sort of has earned our rebuke.
In other words, until only recently this administration did not have a consistent policy of promoting nonviolent evolution to constitutional and secular government across the Middle East. Cannot we oppose Iranian theocracy or Libyan thuggery with the same zeal that we showed in finally castigating the Mubarak dictatorship?
Meanwhile, as much of the world's oil supply teeters on the brink, the Obama administration has stopped new drilling for seven years in the eastern Gulf of Mexico; halted further oil and gas exploration in many regions of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming; and will not reconsider drilling in small but petroleum-rich areas of Alaska. Instead, we hear the same tired Van Jones-like fantasies about wind and solar power as gasoline prices approach $4 a gallon in recessionary times -- with nightmarish scenarios of twice that price if the Persian Gulf explodes in further unrest.
It is past time for the Obama administration to speak in one voice -- prudentially, consistently and forcefully -- on behalf of nonviolent transition to secular constitutional government in the Middle East. Meanwhile, to preserve our autonomy and options, America in the short term needs to stop borrowing money and to drill like crazy for oil and natural gas, as we fast-track coal and nuclear power.
Right now anything less is near-criminal negligence.