I’ve been trying to resist the temptation to use the protests in Egypt as a mere venue for narrow minded point scoring, but damnit I just can’t hold back any longer. If you think back to 2003, 2004, and 2005 you very commonly heard (neo-?) conservatives arguing as if the main thing liberals found objectionable about George W Bush’s foreign policy was that liberals didn’t like the idea of Arab countries being democracies. Liberals tended to say “no, no” that what we didn’t like about Bush’s foreign policy was that his foreign policy was (a) terrible, and (b) getting huge numbers of people killed while (c) accomplishing nothing or (d) aiding the geopolitical aspirations of Iranian hardliners.
And whatever else happens, I think what we’re seeing in Egypt is a definitive refutation of that conservative argumentative frame. You don’t see American progressives out in the streets leading pro-Mubarak rallies, you don’t see Mohammed ElBarradei talking about how the Middle East is no place for freedom, and you don’t see any of the other things you would predict on the hypothesis that criticism of the invasion of Iraq was primarily motivated by a desire to shield Arab autocrats from criticism.