In his inaugural speech, President Obama said, "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history." But his timid responses to democratic uprisings in the Middle East have shown his commitment to those on the right side of history is sorely lacking.
The United States is supposed to be a country that is behind those who are being repressed, but it has seemed like our president has been hesitant to even come out too strongly for the general rights of those who risk their lives to be on that right side of history. We got lucky in Tunisia and Egypt. Those regimes aren't as willing as Iran's to kill, torture and jail their way to staying in power. But why did he wait so long to come stridently out in support of the democratic movements?
We may not have helped the Green Revolution prevail in Iran had Obama come out more forcefully for the forces of democracy there, or even if he'd rallied support among our allies around the world (as I think he should have). We’ll never really know. But we should have done it anyway. If we are the nation we fancy ourselves to be, with a president who has a serious commitment to putting ourselves squarely on the right side of history, we should have made it clear from the point where these protests seemed real and lasting that we were behind the people of Egypt, Tunisia, and Iran that were fighting for freedom.
This isn't just something we should do in the Middle East. This is something we should do in principle, anywhere in the world, because we genuinely care that there are billions that don't enjoy so many of the rights we take for granted every day. This should be our automatic response for democratic uprisings in any autocratic nation whose people rise up. It is quite literally the least we can do.
All that the Obama administration's prevaricating has accomplished is missing an opportunity where we could have been closer to the people of Egypt who are now scrambling to put together a new democracy. I read dozens of pieces by correspondents over the last few weeks describing responses ranging from pleas of help and dismay to disappointment and outrage among Egyptians for our lackluster response. And why wouldn't they feel that way? Where is the great United States, and Obama, the champion of democracy, who announced his support for efforts like theirs only two short years ago?
We didn't need to send in the Marines or any other drastic measures of that sort. These fights are not ours to make. But when the leaders of a new Egypt look at us with untrusting eyes, we will have earned it. Timidly waiting to back people fighting for their freedom is no way to be on the right side of history.
Solomon Kleinsmith is a nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates. He is currently collaborating with other centrist independent and moderate bloggers on a news aggregation and social networking site, and is always looking for ways to help the independent groundswell as more and more people become disaffected with the two major parties.