President Barack Obama campaigned as the polar opposite of his predecessor, George W. Bush, heralding the end of the Bush Doctrine, in which Arab political reform played a central role. Upon taking office, Obama determined that he would strengthen ties with the ossified Arab regimes, rather than antagonize them, as the Bush policies did.
Today, tens of thousands of protesters are mounting a defiant challenge to the 30-year rule of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak. Across the Arab world, from Algeria to Jordan and Yemen, Arabs who have known nothing but dictatorship are calling for democratic reforms or even regime change. These protests stem from a desire to replicate the recent events in Tunisia, where massive street protests forced out 23-year dictator Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali.
Will the Obama administration support these new democratic movements? If we refer to the recent past as a guide, there's little room for optimism.
In June 2009, when rigged elections handed another term to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, prompting hundreds of thousands of Iranians to take to the streets, Obama remained silent, encouraging the Iranian regime to mount a brutal crackdown on the protesters. Only then did Obama issue a mild statement of concern.
Similarly, Obama has all but removed himself from today's debate. Calling for calm on both sides, he barely noted the importance of the mass protests that may yet bring down other regimes in his State of the Union.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been equally beige, noting that the Mubarak regime is an ally, but also noting the importance of universal freedoms. Vice President Joe Biden, however, has come to Mubarak's defense, challenging the characterization of him as a "dictator."
Tell that to the population that has chafed under his rule for some 30 years.