Monday, February 21, 2011


It began with Tunisia.  Then, it spread to Egypt, Jordan, Iran, Libya, China, and several other countries.  Citizens in these nation have taken to the streets in droves in defiance of tyranny.  While there are many explanations to clarify the motives, I find (perhaps wishfully so) one to be the most compelling: People want freedom and democracy.

I have no trouble dismissing Iatola Khamenei's claim that the protesters want to establish Muslim states because it does not jive with the commonality of all the nations experiencing unrest and upheaval.  I'm not denying that some factions may wish to see that outcome, but if it was the end goal, why would such protests arise in Iran and China?  Oh wait, breaking news:  State media is reporting that no such protests are occurring in those two countries.  Perhaps the fact that state media is in existence at all supports my claim that people in those countries are not free?  I can't say for sure, but I'd bet the commonality among this set of nations (and more that are likely to join) is that the people aren't free.  Given that and the fact that I don't see any other blatant similarities, it's hard for me to think this isn't about democracy.

If indeed my above claim is true (and we will only know this from historical perspective down the road), I am left scratching my head.  How is it that we, the United States of America, a nation with freedom and democracy so ingrained in its identity not publicly and unequivocally supporting pro democracy movements?  For God's sake, some of these governments are bombing their own people.  In other nations, people are being beaten for merely planning to attend rallies for freedom.  Yet, all I hear is deafening silence from Washington.  Sure, Hillary Clinton condemned the Libyan violence, but notice she is telling the government to stop, and she is not expressing a backing of the protesters.

The only comments I hear backing protesters come from Nancy Pelosi, and she is talking about the Wisconsin situation (which is the subject of another post entirely).  When I look at what is happening around the world and couple that with what I'm hearing from Washington, I have to ask myself, "What would Reagan do?"

Would he succumb to political correctness and keep quiet not wanting to upset the apple cart?  Would he instead speak to the world and let it know that we stand up for freedom (if you have time, I urge you to watch the entire clip)?

What could possibly be taking Washington so long to tell the world we are behind those fighting for freedom from oppression wherever they are?  The only thing I have seen from President Obama is a professorial talk to reporters about Egypt.  Pardon me for saying so, but this speech and that of President Reagan above do not sound alike at all.  The tone is different, and thus, the message is different.  One speech stood up for freedom proactively, and the other merely provides a hindsight account of what happened.  One talks about what should happen in the future and what we ought to strive for, and the other is a historical recount.

We ought to defend the notion of freedom and support those seeking it with unwavering resolve, and we ought to do it ex ante, not ex post.  While not all free elections will make the United States safer, that is an eventuality we must deal with and to which we must adapt.  However, it is not acceptable for us to support dictators out of convenience.  In doing such a thing, we diminish our credibility and influence around the world.  If we really believe in freedom and democracy, we ought always back those principles.  This watershed mark in history is no exception.



  1. Saying Obama isn't doing anything publicly is not the same as saying he isn't doing anything. Obama was pretty active in the last Iran protests and the Iranian Government made a big deal about how the protests were just American fomented dissenters and used that as an excuse to exercise police powers. Obama's administration does not want to repeat that perceived mistake. Liberals blame Clinton's bombing of Serbia as delaying the Serbian freedom movement. It's tough to say whether Obama should be more active in denouncing these regimes. I'd hate to interfere with something that seems to be working. With Libya we have to wonder how much influence we have.

    However, I of course agree with you wholeheartedly on that last paragraph. How exciting to think that these events are things that will fill the history books 100 years from now. Realpolitik negotiations with non-free countries will always be a necessary evil, but they should never be more than that


  2. I think it's a bit of a stretch to assume (even implicitly) that Iran may not have come to the conclusion that the protests were somehow caused by Americans, regardless of what President Obama had done. Further, I'm not sure it's true that even if that conclusion hadn't been drawn, Iran would have refrained from exercising police power.

    Lastly, there is a big difference between stating our stance on freedom and dropping bombs, like in the Clinton case. Sure, actions speak louder than words, and all I am proposing are words, but the sentiment behind the words can often inspire. I am worried that the protesters may think they're alone, and their passion may diminish. If a speech can even possibly reaffirm their quest, I don't see the harm in making it.

  3. I mean, my ambivalence really comes down to an idea of how actions lead to results. It may be the case that Iran's actions would have been the same. They may have been different. In any case, it's not so much as what the Iranian government can say, it's what it can convince it's troops to do. The central element of freedom here is that the military shudders at the thought of firing on it's own people. The advantage of blaming America is that you can demonize the protestors into a less sympathetic target. It's still disgusting, but I can't really defend the militaries of these evil governments.

    One thing I can say for certain... The Arab protestors know they are not alone (China is a much more isolated situation). The people of Libya stand with the people of Iran stand with the people of Yemen, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Palestine, Morocco, Bahrain, etc. They know it and twitter and other media has allowed them to prove it. They know it's possible to overthrow their government, and I suspect that many more will fall.

    It will be difficult politically after it is over, but perhaps we can institute a new Marshall plan for the new governments of the Middle East. Much like it galvanized Western Europe into uniting with us against Russia, we can galvanize the free peoples of the Middle East to stand with us against the forces of Islamic terrorism.


  4. One thing you touched on is very interesting to ponder. Will Zuckerberg go down in history as the man who inadvertently greased the wheels of democracy by creating Facebook?

  5. It's absolutely amazing how an invention designed for small purposes in one country can turn out to have a huge impact in another.