the national interest

Romney: Obama Abandoning Bush Agenda Caused Arab Spring

In an interview with Hayom, a right-wing Israeli newspaper, Mitt Romney says something really bizarre about the Arab Spring:


The Arab Spring is not appropriately named. It has become a development of more concern and it occurred in part because of the reluctance on the part of various dictators to provide more freedom to their citizens. President [George W.] Bush urged [deposed Egyptian President] Hosni Mubarak to move toward a more democratic posture, but President Obama abandoned the freedom agenda and we are seeing today a whirlwind of tumult in the Middle East in part because these nations did not embrace the reforms that could have changed the course of their history, in a more peaceful manner.”

This is extremely weird.

This is extremely weird.

George W. Bush delivered a second inaugural address declaring that, henceforth, the United States would no longer bolster authoritarian allies but would instead actively work to support democracy across the globe. This new policy — the “Freedom Agenda” — kicked off a passionate debate among op-ed columnists and foreign-policy journals, until everybody figured out that the Freedom Agenda wasn’t an agenda at all but just a dramatic speech devoid of policy content.

Then, half a dozen years later, a string of popular revolts sprang up across the Arab world. Since this was the kind of thing Bush had called for in his speech, neoconservatives immediately began claiming credit for it. (A slight variation on the Bush-was-right theme came from former Karl Rove aide Pete Wehner who, torn between his love of Bush and hatred for Obama, proclaimed that the Arab Spring was happening because of Bush and despite Obama’s lack of support for the Freedom Agenda.)

One group of people who have never felt all that excited about the Arab Spring were Israeli conservatives and some of their ideological allies, who fear the general spread of unrest, and the particular loss of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. That is the constituency Romney is trying to woo in his interview. The way to do that is to ignore the Freedom Agenda and blame Obama for Abandoning Our Allies. Instead he blames the Arab Spring on Obama abandoning the Freedom Agenda, arguing that if only he had pressed Mubarak to hold free elections, he would have. Mubarak knew perfectly well that he would have stood no chance of winning a free election, so Romney’s attempt to hold these principles together is total nonsense.

Romney Blames Arab Spring on Obama