Does Egypt prove Bush was right?

George W. Bush said we could launch a wave of democratic reform in the Arab world by standing firm against tyranny. Does the uprising in Egypt vindicate him?

Bush's much-debated "freedom agenda" was intended to speed democracy to the Middle East.
(Image credit: Corbis)

Surprisingly, President Obama's handling of the Egypt revolt has not triggered partisan squabbling in Washington. A battle is simmering, however over his predecessor's policies, and the specific question of whether the waves of popular uprisings in the Middle East vindicate President George W. Bush's "freedom agenda." Is Bush's promotion of U.S.-fostered democracy in the region just now bearing fruit, or are Arabs revolting in spite of Bush's Mideast record?

Obama blew it by ditching the Bush Doctrine: The uprisings sweeping across the Mideast "make it clear that Bush had it right," says former Bush adviser Elliott Abrams in The Washington Post, and that "the Obama administration's abandonment" of Bush's push for Arab "self-government" is "nothing short of a tragedy." If Obama hadn't "dismissed Bush's 'freedom agenda' as overly ideological," the wave would have started sooner, and spread wider.

"Egypt protests show George W. Bush was right about freedom in the Arab world"

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Bush set back the democracy movement: "What exactly is the 'it' that George W. Bush supposedly had right?" asks Paul Pillar in The National Interest. The "centerpiece" of his "freedom agenda" was trying to inject democracy into Iraq "through the barrel of a gun," which did more to "sour Middle Easterners on the idea of political change in the name of democracy and freedom" than anything else. A "push" from the U.S. can't make Arab states into "workable liberal democracies."

"The freedom agenda revisited"

Bush and Obama mostly talked a good game: Both presidents have actually hit similar rhetorical notes about backing the right of Arabs to a free government, says Josh Gerstein in Politico. But when push came to shove, "neither the Bush nor the Obama administrations ever mounted a full-court press for greater democratic freedoms in Egypt" or other Arab regimes. Bush was hampered by his war on terror; Obama by his quest for Arab-Israeli peace.

"Bush and Obama on Egypt: Neither lived up to rhetoric"

What about an "Obama Doctrine"?: None of this makes Bush wrong, says Stephen L. Carter in The Daily Beast. In fact, Egypt's uprising only proves that both he and Obama were right to reject the "essentially racist assumption" that Arabs don't long for freedom and self-government like the rest of us. What we need now is "a clear Obama Doctrine" for other Arabs "yearning for liberty," so they can "know before they go into the streets whether the United States will be on their side."

"Egypt proves Bush right"

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