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Posted at 10:41 AM ET, 01/31/2011

Conservatives keep hogging credit for Mideast protests

By Adam Serwer

The Republican leadership in Congress has been oddly deferential to the president in his handling of the political upheaval in Egypt. It's one of the few recent moments in which the Republican political leadership seems to be out of sync with the conservative media, which is busy alternately trying to give Bush credit for the protests while setting Obama up to take the blame if Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen don't all transition to peaceful, Western-style democracies.

In the Post last weekend, Former Bush administration official Eliot Abrams offered this typical strawman, arguing that the protests prove "George W. Bush was right about freedom in the Arab world":

For decades, the Arab states have seemed exceptions to the laws of politics and human nature. While liberty expanded in many parts of the globe, these nations were left behind, their "freedom deficit" signaling the political underdevelopment that accompanied many other economic and social maladies. In November 2003, President George W. Bush laid out this question:

"Are the peoples of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty? Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism? Are they alone never to know freedom and never even to have a choice in the matter?"

The massive and violent demonstrations underway in Egypt, the smaller ones in Jordan and Yemen, and the recent revolt in Tunisia that inspired those events, have affirmed that the answer is no and is exploding, once and for all, the myth of Arab exceptionalism. Arab nations, too, yearn to throw off the secret police, to read a newspaper that the Ministry of Information has not censored and to vote in free elections.

The above statement also comes close to suggesting that the domestic factors leading to the protests are secondary to Bush giving a bunch of speeches about freedom while undermining due process and human rights at home, that the protesters themselves are, as I wrote a few weeks ago, but "bit players in their own political upheaval. It is paternalism masked as inspirational praise." It also assumes that opposing the invasion of Iraq, the centerpiece of Bush's "democracy agenda," is practically indistinguishable from the racist belief that Arabs simply don't desire individual freedom. 

But the biggest reason not to give Bush credit for what's happening in the Middle East today is that Iraq hardly resembles the peaceful, Western-style democracy it was supposed to be. As Matt Duss writes:

Bush's democracy agenda was a huge failure for a number of reasons, but not least because it featured as its main advertisement the smoking ruins and charred bodies of Iraq. There was also the Bush administration's tendency to pull the plug when it became obvious that democracy might mean the political victory of people the U.S. didn't like, as happened in Egypt. Or, as in Gaza, to try to reverse the outcome through a coup, a disaster in which Abrams himself played a key role.

In other words, no one wanted to imitate Iraq's experience with democracy, one cannot credibly claim that the protests in the Middle East are indicative of a desire to do so. If anything the protests prove the opposite--that foreign military intervention isn't a necessary prerequisite to Middle Eastern democracy.

Abrams complains that "Obama's remarks did not clearly demand democracy or free elections there," as though the White House could engineer its preferred outcome in Egypt through sheer force of will. Meanwhile, in 2005, Bush congratulated Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on "winning" 89 percent of the vote in the Egyptian elections.

This reflects the reality that, rhetoric nonwithstanding, American leaders have supported democracy when they believed it was in U.S. interests -- and supported autocrats like Mubarak when it wasn't. As Steven Cook writes, "Change is coming to the Arab world because of its own internal problems and contradictions. Arabs are writing their own narrative and Washington would do well to make a strong statement in favor of the democratic aspiration of the people and then back off."

Conservatives might also stop trying to take credit for the bravery of those attempting to write their own history -- to the extent that they're doing so, it is more in spite of us than because of us. Frankly, I doubt anyone understands that better than the protesters themselves, none of who will be fooled by the U.S. cautiously withdrawing its support for a leader whose 30 years in power are largely due to our sanction. 

By Adam Serwer  | January 31, 2011; 10:41 AM ET
Categories:  Foreign policy and national security  
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Next: Nonstop idiocy about Obama and `American exceptionalism'

Comments

Classic. Protestors demanding freedom 2 years into Obama's presidency is somehow related to W, not Obama's Cairo speech.

Only bad things can be attributed to Obama. Ya know, the way that the GOP blames the jobs recession on Obama.

Posted by: kromerm | January 31, 2011 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Eliot Abrams argues
"George W. Bush was right about freedom in the Arab world"

... but if that were true, we wouldn't have needed to invade Iraq & Afghanistan, right? The protestors in Tunisia drove out an unpopular dictator & the Egyptians are trying to do the same - all without US forces setting foot in those countries. That reinforces the notion that the lives, money & time we have spent in Iraq were an unecessary waste.

Posted by: bsimon1 | January 31, 2011 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Eliot Abrams: "George W. Bush was right about freedom in the Arab world"

Yeah, that's why the Bushies were so enthusiastic when the results of the Palestinian elections resulted in Hamas winning.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | January 31, 2011 10:47 AM | Report abuse

I am content with setting Obama up to take the blame.

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 31, 2011 10:51 AM | Report abuse

...and when this crisis ends with more influence for the Muslim Brotherhood, we can just blame Bush for not invading Egypt.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | January 31, 2011 10:51 AM | Report abuse

suekzoo1 writes
"Yeah, that's why the Bushies were so enthusiastic when the results of the Palestinian elections resulted in Hamas winning."

elections only matter when you like the outcome. That's why the 2006 & 2008 elections drove the conservatives to the right, in opposition to the winners. But the 2010 elections 'proved' that people want TEA.

.

Posted by: bsimon1 | January 31, 2011 10:53 AM | Report abuse

This is all an academic exercise. Most voters have forgotten about Bush's democracy promotion policies, because he failed to follow through on them, and spent the last two years of his presidency curled up in the fetal position hoping to get out of office before another catostrophe occured. If this works out it will be to Obama's benefit; it it doesn't, he'll get blamed for it. Simple as that.

Posted by: oldabandonedbeachhouse | January 31, 2011 10:54 AM | Report abuse

bsimon1, the effort to tip over the first domino was not wasted.

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 31, 2011 10:55 AM | Report abuse

This just in:

Elliot Abrams credits President George W. Bush with Hezbollah taking control of Lebanon.

After all, they just did. It must have been George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq, that brought it about. Yeah, that's the ticket!

Posted by: Liam-still | January 31, 2011 10:55 AM | Report abuse

This just in:

Elliot Abrams credits President George W. Bush with Hezbollah taking control of Lebanon.

After all, they just did. It must have been George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq, that brought it about. Yeah, that's the ticket!

Posted by: Liam-still | January 31, 2011 10:57 AM | Report abuse

This just in:

Elliot Abrams credits George W. Bush with turning Egypt back into an existential threat to the State Of Israel, and for having thousands of imprisoned Hamas terrorists being allowed to escape, and return to Gaza. One such would be suicide bomber, has already appeared on TV, back home in Gaza, after the prison breakouts in Egypt.

Israel, don't forget to thank George W. Bush for having brought it about.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 31, 2011 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Adam says: "Conservatives might also stop trying to take credit for the bravery of those attempting to write their own history"

Their time would be better spent coming to terms with that we need to get our economy off oil, and into renewables and other energy sources that we can provide for ourselves, and technologies that we can export.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | January 31, 2011 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Also credit Bush with Hamas winning the democratic elections held in Gaza where he championed the elections then had to tuck tail when Hamas won.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | January 31, 2011 11:07 AM | Report abuse

The point missed here is that we shouldn't be meddling in any countries internal politics.

Posted by: illogicbuster | January 31, 2011 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Eliot Abrams was deeply involved in Reagan's Iran Contra, arms for hostages affairs.

Those chicken hawk neo-cons have no shame.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 31, 2011 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Elliot Abrams is a convicted criminal. All you need to know about the joker is here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elliott_Abrams

Of course, he's par for a NeoCon. His opinion isn't worth $.02.

Posted by: clintt5 | January 31, 2011 11:21 AM | Report abuse

OT-

Pay China first! http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/01/pay-china-first----republicans-wild-plan-to-avoid-us-debt-default.php?ref=fpb

How Tone Deaf is the GOP? Let me count the ways:
-Pay China first
-Cut SS and Medicare
-Repeal HCR (you know all the popular stuff "no one" wants)

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | January 31, 2011 11:32 AM | Report abuse

There is a very interesting divide emerging on the right, with regards to Egypt. Some of them are rushing to give George W. Bush all the credit for the anti-Mubarak demonstrations,
while we have both the government of Israel, and guys like John Bolton, calling for the Obama Administration, and other western leaders to do what ever they can to keep Mubarak in power.

I wonder how the Kings of Jordan and Saudi Arabia are feeling today, about guys like Abrams bragging about how George W. Bush is the guy who set it up for them to be overthrown.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 31, 2011 11:32 AM | Report abuse

That the Post stoops to give a forum to a discredited criminal like Eliot Abrams speaks volumes about how far it has fallen in credibility and under the sway of crazy neocons.

Posted by: fiona5 | January 31, 2011 11:35 AM | Report abuse

I wonder how the Kings of Jordan and Saudi Arabia are feeling today, about guys like Abrams bragging about how George W. Bush is the guy who set it up for them to be overthrown.
---------------------------------------------------------
No more holding hands with George, that's for sure.

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | January 31, 2011 11:40 AM | Report abuse

by Conor Friedersdorf

As journalists everywhere do their best to bone up on Egypt and cover a complicated story as it unfolds, writers at Andrew Breitbart's Web site Big Peace are publishing all kinds of irresponsible crazy:

We know that the Muslim Brotherhood supports the uprising in Egypt. The Obama administration does as well. Based on the release of a secret document, it’s been learned that the United States government supported the April 6 Youth Movement – a group that played a key role in the uprising – in the form of a summit in Washington, D.C. That summit took place from December 3-5, 2008. We also know that Bill Ayers and Bernandine Dohrn were in Cairo a little more than one year later, engaging in protests while attempting to show solidarity with Hamas by entering Gaza with Egyptian protesters.

...Conveniently or coincidentally, the actions – and now words courtesy of the once secret document – of the Obama administration, coupled with the actions and words of Bill Ayers indicate a desire on the part of both to usher in a new Islamic caliphate in the Middle East, assuming they’re not ignorant of the Brotherhood’s goal. What more evidence is needed to demonstrate that Islamism and Marxism are not strange bedfellows? They’re hand-in-glove bedfellows.

This is from a different author:

It should come as no surprise, then, that the hard left– aligned always with elements of the most radical Islamists against US interests– are joining the battle on the side of the Muslim Brotherhood. This repeats the pattern begun during the 1979 Iranian Revolution, as leftists like Michel Foucault serenaded Ayatollah Khomeini and the promise of a theocratic regime in that country. That a homosexual like Foucault would prefer the Shariah-adherent totalitarianism that was unleashed in Iran to the more pro-Western Shah is testament to the hard left’s fetishization of the post-colonial narrative: anything but America, and the more militantly anti-American, the more “legitimate.” Dinesh D’Souza argued, I believe convincingly, last year that Obama is similarly predisposed.

When Brietbart launched Big Peace, he wrote that "the site is pro-freedom, pro-liberty, and pro-American but will not be an outlet for false information or propaganda." So will he defend as plausible truth the notion that Obama desires the rise of a new Islamic caliphate in the Middle East? It would be nice if other conservatives who tout his Web properties would confront the disservice he does to his audience.

http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2011/01/big-lunacy.html

Posted by: pragmaticagain | January 31, 2011 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Well this is interesting. Mr Serwer writes;
============
...that foreign military intervention isn't a necessary prerequisite to Middle Eastern democracy.
=================

Have we seen democracy yet Adam? Have there been national elections, attended no doubt by that bastion of liberal commonsense Jimmy Carter, in Tunisia or Egypt?

Are the people of Iraq engaged in a massive effort to overthrow thier government? Or can they wait till the next election?

it is important for liberals to believe that ONLY liberalism works. Therefore they work hard to deny any non liberal any credit for anything.

Conversely it is important for liberals to blame everything on the folks they hate. During the Bush years I firmly believed that if NASA announced that an asteroid was going to collide with the earth and thereby kill us all, the liberals would:
(1) Blame Bush
(2) find a way to convince themselves that Cheney did it so Haliburton could earn billions.

substitute Sarah Palin, or Michele Bachman or any other popular conservative in the above and you have the Tucson shooting aftermath, liberal style.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 31, 2011 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Skippy,

Take it up with Eliot Abrams. He is the one who is rushing to praise George W. Bush for having brought freedom and Democracy to all the Arab nations.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 31, 2011 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Here is the future for Obama. In response to beachhouse:
================
This is all an academic exercise. Most voters have forgotten about Bush's democracy promotion policies, because he failed to follow through on them, and spent the last two years of his presidency curled up in the fetal position hoping to get out of office before another catostrophe occured. If this works out it will be to Obama's benefit; it it doesn't, he'll get blamed for it. Simple as that.

=====================

Actually, the level of civility coming from the American left continued to decline. As the Congressional Republicans abandonned their priniciples and is so doing lost elections the nastiest people on the planet swelled with arrogance. The calls for Bush's assasination grew louder. The outright hatred was no longer hidden from view.

Bush was assailed from every direction. That's the way it is now.

The strategy was to hobble Bush via every tool at the Democrat's disposal. It worked.

so now Obama's acolytes can look forward to the same treatment. No story, no matter how small, will go unremarked by the American Right. We will hammer away at everything, seeking to diminish Obama's standing with the voters and therefore his ability to advance his agenda.

We will use the same tactics that were employed by those who hated Bush. Since they were successful it would foolish NOT to use them.

Best get used to it beachhouse&CO. You know what is said about pay back, right?

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 31, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse

@skip-

Once again, some on the Right (such as you) are advancing a false equivalency regarding actions by the Bush Administration vis-a-vis "efforts by the Left to hobble that Admin".

Your side will take bi-partisan votes from Democratic members of Congress and then loss of Congress in 2006 as somehow justifying the complete *lack* of bipartisanship on major legislation since he became POTUS-thus the "Waterloo".

More whining from the Right...


Posted by: ChuckinDenton | January 31, 2011 12:20 PM | Report abuse

More from Friedersdorf in response to skip's fantasy:

These are inseparable from the success of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh's status as the right's most popular entertainer. Foremost is the echo chamber effect: a bubble where the Iraq War was always going swimmingly, patriotism seemed to require support for torture, and the Bush Administration's domestic agenda never lacked for defenders happy to obscure the manifold ways that it violated even the principles of conservatism. The conservative media isn't wholly responsible for 8 years of Republican rule that left the right exceptionally unhappy. But it acted as a consistent enabler of policies that did long term damage to the country and brought about an electoral flameout that handed progressives their biggest opportunity in years.

Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and friends have also succeeded in dumbing down the right's ideas. How could it be otherwise when they traffic in absurd conspiracy theories that many prominent conservatives are afraid to directly contradict? If you only trust right-leaning media sources – that is true of many conservatives – who is pushing back against the notion that Barack Obama is a Kenyan anti-colonialist, or that all liberals are power-hungry statists bent on spreading tyranny as their preferred end? Perhaps there are instances when these sorts of lies produce a short term political advantage. In the long run, it is never worth the extra distance put between the right and an accurate grasp of reality.

http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2011/01/turnabout-is-a-terrible-idea.html

Posted by: pragmaticagain | January 31, 2011 12:21 PM | Report abuse

talk about whining:
=================
@skip-

Once again, some on the Right (such as you) are advancing a false equivalency regarding actions by the Bush Administration vis-a-vis "efforts by the Left to hobble that Admin".

Your side will take bi-partisan votes from Democratic members of Congress and then loss of Congress in 2006 as somehow justifying the complete *lack* of bipartisanship on major legislation since he became POTUS-thus the "Waterloo".

More whining from the Right...


================

I'm hardly whining. In fact I greatly admire the ability of the left to stall Mr Bush. I watched how it was done carefully. So now we can easily duplicate the tactics and use them against Obama.

On another thread Mr Sargent is in full on spoiled brat temper tantrum mode about another talking head with the NERVE to criticize Mr Obama. Can you imagine? Repeating an issue ad nauseum just to weaken Mr Obama's standing with the voters? Why if it weren't for the fact that this is exactly what the liberals did in their turn, it would no doubt be deplored by Mr Sargent in the strongest possible terms.

This is just too much fun. Squirm my liberal tadpoles and polliwogs. Squirm. Your tactics are now being used against you and all you have with which to respond is the blather I copied above.

Don't like it that the Republicans would use their situation to their advantage? Ain't that just tooo frickin bad. When you did it, you felt righteous and wholesome. Now if the Right uses it, well we're talking "moral equivalence."

of course there is equivalence, this your toolbox. We're just borrowing the screw drivers.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 31, 2011 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Personally, any squirming would be the result of embarrassment for the unhinged lunacy and absurdity of the right, quite aptly demonstrated by the screeds of skip and many of the other "conservative" posters on this site and incredibly ignorant blog posts and commentators elsewhere.

What happened to the respectable voices from the right?

Posted by: pragmaticagain | January 31, 2011 1:16 PM | Report abuse

this is just too funny:
======================
What happened to the respectable voices from the right?
==========================

Respectable, of course, is in the ear of the hearer, right? Therefore YOU arrogate to yourself the right to define who is behaving in a manner you find appropriate. Good luck with that.

In the meantime the liberals have to face the music. The ten year temper tantrum about Bush set the standard for "respectable". It is now respectable to make movies about the assasination of Obama, right? Or publish books based on a fcitional recount of an assasination of Obama, right? It was certainly respectable when Bush was the central character. What's the difference now?

No doubt respectable includes the kinds of things enshrined on the zombie's blog. You know, posters of Bush with a bullet hole in the forehead? that's the kind of respectability that the left found acceptable when a Republican was in office. Now they whine (see above for proof) because we're not being nice enough.

Just too funny.

Whine on pragmatic dude. Whine on. YOu won't get any quarter now because you gave none in turn.

Turnabout, my liberal chickadees, is fair play.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 31, 2011 1:37 PM | Report abuse

@skip-

"...and is so doing lost elections the nastiest people on the planet swelled with arrogance".

LOL! Nice. I assume you are being ironic, yes? If not, then...

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | January 31, 2011 8:32 PM | Report abuse

Don't like it that the Republicans would use their situation to their advantage? Ain't that just tooo frickin bad. When you did it, you felt righteous and wholesome. Now if the Right uses it, well we're talking "moral equivalence."

of course there is equivalence, this your toolbox. We're just borrowing the screw drivers.

Posted by: skipsailing2
****************************************
It doesn't matter what kind of tool you use when the raw material is #$%@.

The GOP is constitutionally incapable of looking over the horizon at anything, be it health care, the deficit, the environment, foreign affairs or whatever. It's all about the next election cycle.

Posted by: st50taw | February 1, 2011 8:15 PM | Report abuse

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