So is U.S. Mideast policy based on supporting dictators, as Mideast expert Robert Kagan says? Another Mideast expert, Barry Rubin, strongly disagrees. He argues that in the past we have done the opposite: we encouraged the overthrow of tyrants like the King of Egypt in the 1950s or the Shah of Iran in the 1970s.
While Egypt does qualify as a dictatorship (regardless of whether Biden changes his mind), the United States does not support any of the other aspirants to that title: Iran, Libya, Syria, Sudan, or Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (Although, as Rubin points out, President Obama is bent on reaching out to several of them.) In fact, he writes: "the U.S. government overthrew two dictatorships--in Iraq and Afghanistan--and helped make them into (imperfect) democracies."
I really worry about the current breathtaking naivete on display in U.S. policy toward Egypt. We apparently think that we can curry favor with the Egyptians by throwing Mubarak under the bus. Or that somehow, holding elections equals freedom and democracy. Doesn't anyone remember that Hitler was elected? Or Hamas? And what about all our other allies who now realize they too could be discarded?
The Egyptian 'street' has been fed for over a generation on a diet of anti-Zionism, anti-Americanism and all kinds of crazy conspiracy theories that aim to divert people from assigning blame where it belongs - with their own government. I'm not saying we should support Mubarak; I'd just like to ask: how many American Mideast experts supported former Secretary of State Condi Rice when she called publicly for more democracy in Egypt? Yup, the silence was deafening.