This is the conclusion of an article by Mark Levine, Professor of History at UC Irvine. The point he makes is the point I have been making all across Twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/afghanmoon), which is that America is failing its first test of Global Counterinsurgency, handed to us at a cost of zero.
If we cannot bring ourselves to take the plunge and support the citizens in Cairo and Alexandria struggling to shake off their dictator, then nowehere in the world for a quarter century will our words of "freedom" or "democracy" be believed.
We are losing the Long War right now in Egypt, not Afghanistan, not Iraq.
A gift that won't be offered again
The most depressing and even frightening part of the tepid US response to the protests across the region is the lack of appreciation of what kind of gift the US, and West more broadly, are being handed by these movements. Their very existence is bringing unprecedented levels of hope and productive activism to a region and as such constitutes a direct rebuttal to the power and prestige of al-Qaeda.
Instead of embracing the push for real democratic change, however, surface reforms that would preserve the system intact are all that's recommended. Instead of declaring loud and clear a support for a real democracy agenda, the president speaks only of "disrupting plots and securing our cities and skies" and "tak[ing] the fight to al-Qaeda and their allies", as he declared in his State of the Union address.
Obama doesn't seem to understand that the US doesn't need to "take the fight" to al-Qaeda, or even fire a single shot, to score its greatest victory in the "war on terror". Supporting real democratisation will do more to downgrade al-Qaeda's capabilities than any number of military attacks. He had better gain this understanding quickly because in the next hours or days the Egypt's revolution will likely face its moment of truth. And right behind Egypt are Yemen, Jordan, Algeria, and who knows what other countries, all looking to free themselves of governments that the US and its European allies have uncritically supported for decades.
If president Obama has the courage to support genuine democracy, even at the expense of immediate American policy interests, he could well go down in history as one of the heroes of the Middle East's Jasmine winter. If he chooses platitudes and the status quo, the harm to America's standing in the region will likely take decades to repair.