1979, 1989 or 2009?

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Instead, he expressed support, encouraged the reformers and hedged his bets in case the revolution veered out of control. The result of his deft public and private diplomacy was unthinkable: the peaceful dissolution of communist dictatorship in Europe, the peaceful reunification of Germany and ultimately the peaceful end of the Soviet Union and its empire.

As David Halberstam later put it in War in a Time of Peace, “In those turbulent, unpredictable days—dangerous because this was the last gasp of a dark empire, and old adversaries are often most dangerous in their dying moments—Bush and his team seemed to have perfect pitch.”

However, Obama should not follow Bush’s example on China. It was also in 1989 that Chinese students, spurred by events in Europe, took to the streets of Beijing to call for freedom. They held peaceful protests for democratic change, and in effect occupied a large swath of Tiananmen Square. When the military was ordered to disperse them, several units actually mutinied. The PRC brought in crack troops from far away to clear the protests. Thousands were killed.

Regrettably, rather than distancing America from China, Bush secretly dispatched Brent Scowcroft days later to mollify the men who turned Tiananmen red with blood and make sure Beijing understood that the fulminations of Congress didn’t reflect the administration’s China policy.

In other words, if the old dictators hold on in the Middle East—or if new dictators replace the old—the United States need not reach out to them or seek to understand them or smooth things over. Let them reach out to us. Let them seek to understand us. Let them make changes that will smooth things over with us.

That brings us to 2009, when Obama had his first chance to support the democrats of the Middle East. Iran was on the verge of a full-fledged counter-revolution that summer. Unlike in Egypt today, or China in 1989, there was no need for realpolitik calculations or cost-benefit comparisons about what we owed the Iranian government due to past partnerships or what the Iranian government could deliver down the road, because there was no relationship with the Iranian government. Yet Obama’s response to the Twitter Revolution was cold, calculating and largely silent. After days of saying nothing, he meekly promised to “bear witness” to the brutal crackdown that ultimately squashed Iran’s freedom movement. Obama had answered his own rhetorical question of a year before: “Will we stand for the human rights of…the blogger in Iran?”

At least the elder Bush could argue that Scowcroft’s secret trip to China kept the imports flowing. America got nothing for averting its gaze during Iran’s crackdown.

Obama can yet recover from his administration’s pathetic initial response to the stirrings of change in Egypt, and in doing so help rehabilitate the administration’s image as aloof or indifferent to the spread of freedom in the Middle East.

After the administration’s initial pro-Mubarak gaffs, Secretary of State Clinton is pointing in the right direction: “We want to see a transition to democracy, and we want to see the kind of steps taken that will bring that about. We also want to see an orderly transition.”

The revolutions of the past 30 years remind us that a president can’t control how these transitions unfold. But he can control how America reacts to them.

Alan W. Dowd writes on defense and security.

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  • Chezwick_Mac

    As the Muslim world re-embraces its Islamic roots, the West must become the shining alternative it once was (before our descent into "multiculturalism"), the beacon of democracy, the model that Muslims soon-to-be disaffected from their nightmarish Sharia future can aspire to. This will never happen unless we in the West arrest our own slide towards a Islamization and dhimmitude.

    It's more imperative now than ever to begin a national discourse about political Islam and its implications for human freedom. It's time to expand the definition of extremism to include more than just a propensity for terrorism. Blasphemy laws, capital proscriptions against apostasy, the brutal hudud punishments of lapidation and amputation, child-marriage, honor killings, female genital mutilation,…these pathologies, so normative to Islam, all must be thoroughly aired in public.

    Our willingness to speak openly and honestly about Islam will have a direct bearing on the ability of our free societies to survive the Islamic challenge. More than that, as part of the discourse, our exposition of the racism, sexism and intolerance promulgated in the Quran, as well as the pronounced moral failings of Islam's prophet, so amply documented in the Hadith and Sira…will inevitably bear fruit in the Muslim world itself. It may be a tough slog, but we CAN influence them with our words and our ethics, though only if we have the courage to speak the truth. Providing a positive example is not enough; we must emphasize and detail the contrast between the open and the closed, between pluralism and monism, between liberty and tyranny, between the West and Islam.

    • Andres de Alamaya

      We can't have any of that until we get rid of Obama.

      • scum

        Why does everyone on this site support dictatorship in Egypt?

        • MixMChess

          I can't speak for others on this site, but its pretty clear that Mubarak is a lousy dictator and reform is needed in Egypt. I don't "support" him, however, given the choice between Mubarak and the far more oppressive Muslim Brotherhood, I'll take Mubarak.

    • SAM000

      I totally agree with what you said;
      I'm an Iranian and I'm born Muslim.
      What you said is the POLITICAL ISLAM (or ISLAMISM).
      Any religion who gets the political power in his hand becomes like our ISLAMISM.
      Look at the INQUISITION period of Europe.

      And education and information is the only way to clean Islamic world, as you said.

      The only problem is that, YOU CAN NOT EDUCATE and INFORM the muslim people from outside.

      A muslim will never, never hear a message from outside, even if the message comes from GOD.

      So, you should enter inside and talk to them.

      This is what we did, and we got another problem, we were smashed by outside ( EU and USA and Communism) and from Islamists on POWER (Khomeini, and the one who succeeded him).

      NOW, we have the daily executions of our dears,
      They are accused to be TERRORISTS ( because USA had listed our RESISTANCE ORGANIZATION terrorist) and anti GOD.

      My dear Chezwick, USA is the best allied of the political ISLAM.
      USA is the biggest barrage for the freedom.

  • muchiboy

    "If those interests or those citizens are threatened or harmed, U.S. force should be immediately employed to answer the threat and/or act of aggression. Better still, before some Tehran-style embassy crisis even happens, Washington’s considerable military contacts with the Egyptian military should send a firm warning to that effect. "

    Yes,destroy any assets that may be used against Israel.And if Israel can be of any assistance,we were very helpful in 1956 helping the Europeans in Suez.

    "Longer-term strategic objectives under this scenario would include …… ensuring Israel’s security."

    As Israel is part of the problem,let her sink or swim with the sharks of the region.Stop any and all economic and military assistance.America and the West needs Israel as a friend like we need a migraine headache. Time to look for other friends in the region without the moral baggage of this Zionist state.

    • StephenD

      After reading the response from Chezwic_Mac and then reading yours…its like reading a comic strip from a newspaper. You are a joke muchiBOY. Nothing you say even deserves rebuttal. You present lame arguments set in sand. Never do you have anything solid and fact based.

    • MixMChess

      "As Israel is part of the problem,let her sink or swim with the sharks of the region."

      Israel is not part of any regional problem. Israel didn't cause dictatorships and theocracies to pop up in every Arab/Islamic state. There have literally been hundreds of wars and conflicts between the Arab states that have absolutely NOTHING to do with Israel: Iraq and Kuwait, Iran and Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia, Iran and Bahrain, Iran and the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE, Yemen and the UAE… need I really go on? The problem lies with the Arab/Islamic world as a whole. Of course, you would prefer to blame everything on the Jews.

    • MixMChess

      "Stop any and all economic and military assistance. America and the West needs Israel as a friend like we need a migraine headache."

      There is no reason to end any aid or assistance to Israel. To the contrary, Israel has proved to be one of the world's most valuable investments. For instance Israel has proven to be a valuable partner with the US in the fields of defense, technology, and medicine. In fact, Israel saves US Taxpayers $150 billion annually by providing stability in the region and provides key economic benefits. For example, Peter McPherson, former administrator of the Agency for International Development, estimated that "every billion dollars of aid to Israel creates 60,000 to 70,000 jobs in the United States."

      In reality, we should be calling for the end of all international support to Arab/Islamic regimes and especially the worthless Palestinians. The disgusting Palestinians literally receive billions in aid each year through UNRWA, US Support and support from the Arab/Islamic bloc and rich buddies like the Saudis. They use funds to murder infidels (Jews, Christians, Hindus, Bahai, and so on), inculcate their children with hatred, kill gays, rape women, torture animals and preach for the death of the West. When will we learn?

    • MixMChess

      "Time to look for other friends in the region without the moral baggage of this Zionist state."

      Really? You mean "terrible" moral baggage of Israel which has helped people throughout the world with its humanitarian missions and aid? "From soil cultivation programs in Kenya to computer education in Ethiopia, from medical programs in Jordan to seminars on cattle husbandry in India, Israel has helped alleviate hunger, disease and poverty in many developing countries. In the '70s, Israel broadened its humanitarian aid agenda by granting safe haven to refugees and foreign nationals in distress such as 303 desperate Vietnamese refugees who now live side by side with Jewish-Israelis in Israel…More than 140 countries have benefited from Israel's humanitarian aid." Most recently, an Israeli medical team saved the lives of over 1,200 Haitians and treated thousands more after the devastating earthquake of 2010.

    • ziontruth

      "Stop any and all economic and military assistance."

      Agreed, only I'd call it extortion. People who think the "aid" given to Israel is free are totally wrong: It carries with it the price tag of telling Israel where to build on its own territory (Palestine, the indigenous territory of the true Palestinians, who are the Jews) and forcing Israel to deal with such vicious enemies as Hezbollah with kid-gloves instead of the way permitted by Jewish Law.

      "America and the West needs Israel as a friend like we need a migraine headache."

      Israel needs support from America and the West like a migraine headache. We're tired of such support that always comes with strings attached. Appease the Muslims all you want, but not on our expense. We'll buy our weapons in plain, non-ideological business deals with other suppliers.

      (P.S. My complaints aren't about the American people but their government. I know at least half of the Americans are on the right side.)

  • Jean H

    Pull all Americans out. Stop ALL foreign aid to those countries in revolution and apply those funds to the principle of our National debt. SUPPORT Israel our only mid east ally!

  • scum

    Why support Israel?

    • MixMChess

      Why not? Name one other liberal democracy in the region that guarantees full civil rights and religious freedom of ALL of its citizens, especially minorities?

    • ziontruth

      Don't support Israel if you don't want to. But don't appease the Muslims on her expense either. If you want to be an isolationist then great, but be an isolationist all the way. DailyKKKos-style strong-arming of Israel to concede her lands to the Arab settler-colonist invaders isn't isolationism.

  • muchiboy

    "We're tired of such support that always comes with strings attached. "

    Israel,like it's regional neighbors,is either a little or big fish in a little pond.Be thankful the attached strings aren't a noose,ziontruth.muchiboy

    • ziontruth

      Is that a threat, Muchiboy?

    • MixMChess

      Strange, the only noose I'm aware of is from the aid we provide to the Palestinians. It seems every time we give them funding we are collectively hanging ourselves. How many dollars have we spent for them to murder Jews and Christians? How much does it cost for the Palestinians to oppress gays, abuse children, torture animals, rape women and preach hatred?

  • Wesley69

    If the military can get the situation under control, when Mubarak steps down, the Military would rule until such times as elections are held in September or so. This would give time for the development of political parties other than the Muslim Brotherhood. The Military should institute the necessary reforms to run a free and democratic election. Other laws need to wait until the new government takes power. The US needs to be supportive of the Miliitary and provide what aid EWgypot may need. 1979 can be avoided, but it will take a lot of heavy lifting.

  • muchiboy

    "Is that a threat, Muchiboy? "

    Re read your post,ziontruth,and answer the very question you just asked me.You mentioned the strings attached to foreign aid,I suspect you meant from your friends,e.g.America.The strings are taken for granted,even from your allies,it's the noose you have to worry about!I seen it at work with Rhodesia's friends.And you know what happened to Rhodesia.Little fish in little ponds are at the mercy of deep sea predators e.g.America,Russia,China,E.U.etc.When America decides something is no longer in its interests,its not America that will come up short.
    It's not always the enemy you fear that is most dangerous,sometimes it's your most trusted friend.Death by quiet diplomacy is just as deadly as defeat in battle.No threat intended. muchiboy

  • muchiboy

    "Is that a threat, Muchiboy? "

    Re read your post,ziontruth,and answer the very question you just asked me.You mentioned the strings attached to foreign aid,I suspect you meant from your friends,e.g.America.The strings are taken for granted,even from your allies,it's the noose you have to worry about!I seen it at work with Rhodesia's friends.And you know what happened to Rhodesia.Little fish in little ponds are at the mercy of deep sea predators e.g.America,Russia,China,E.U.etc.When America decides something is no longer in its interests,its not America that will come up short.
    It's not always the enemy you fear that is most dangerous,sometimes it's your most trusted friend.Death by quiet diplomacy is just as deadly as defeat in battle.No threat intended. muchiboy

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