Is the Arab Middle East ready for democracy? We know how the past two American presidents have answered this.
The revised stated purpose behind President George W. Bush’s invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq was to build a new world order by forcing democracy on populations to whom it was truly alien. The original stated purpose for invading Afghanistan was to destroy the folks who provided shelter to the 9/11 attackers, and the original stated purpose for invading Iraq was to rid it of a government that possessed and might use weapons of mass destruction.
But when we learned that the real support for the 9/11 attacks came from folks protected by our so-called friends in Saudi Arabia, and when we learned that the only weapons of mass destruction possessed by Iraq were the ones the U.S. sold to Saddam Hussein in the mid-1980s, which he no longer possessed, the Bush administration changed the rhetoric but not the violence or its cost.
Since the termination of those wars came about after the installation of puppet regimes in both countries, and since those regimes now claim legitimacy because they were elected by the people permitted to vote there, we have been reminded that democracy is more than the result of a majority vote. It is respect for the rule of law and recognition of the inalienable rights of the individual. It is not torture, extra-judicial killings or government-sanctioned rape and legal suppression of women and girls; it is not racial and religious and ethnic hatred and persecution; and it is not the rule of mobs in the streets.
When Egypt was in turmoil a year ago, President Obama nudged Hosni Mubarak from office. He was the longtime American puppet and Egyptian strongman who called himself president but was never really elected. His downfall was followed by a short-lived military dictatorship, and that was followed by the popular election of Islamic radicals to the government. They hate the West, the U.S. and Israel.
Is it any wonder that our embassy in Cairo has been attacked and our folks who work and live there are threatened every day? Should the president alone be able to help depose a foreign leader without the consensus of the American people or their elected representatives in Congress? Did the president’s miscalculations take into account that it might be better to leave in place the devil you know instead of inviting the devil you don’t know to replace him? Did he consider that the leader of Egypt is for the Egyptians — and not the American government — to decide?
The case of Libya is even worse. There, Mr. Obama unlawfully, deceptively and unconstitutionally bombed Libya in an effort either to kill Col. Gadhafi, its former strongman and American ally, or to weaken his defenses until he surrendered. It was unlawful because he used the CIA to fight a war. It was deceptive because he lied about no boots on the ground (“boots” referring to troops, rather than intelligence agents with military hardware). It was unconstitutional because under the Constitution, only Congress may declare war on another country. This was an act of war on a legitimate government, one that then-President George W. Bush and then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair praised a few years earlier as a partner in the war against terror, and one that posed no threat whatsoever to American freedom.
Now we know that some of the very same people the U.S. fought — and supposedly defeated in Afghanistan and Iraq — were part of the coalition of violent militias that ousted Gadhafi with the help of American bombs. The government they wrought is too weak to protect our diplomats and our real estate there from them. So they attacked our unguarded consulate in Benghazi and killed our ambassador, and so far they have gotten away with it.
Does anyone really believe the nonsense from the Obama administration that the recent killings of Americans and others and the destruction in the Arab world are about a 15-minute, grade-C movie trailer with dubbed voices and terrible acting and no plot or message? Or is the violence about the opportunity of those Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama trusted to run new governments to vent their hatred?
Is it not more likely that when the West supported toppling Arab strongmen, the rioters in the streets saw that as a signal to express hatred toward the meddling West? Might Mr. Obama’s drones, which have fallen all over the Middle East killing innocents in schools and hospitals, at weddings and funerals, and demolishing mosques and homes, be coming back to haunt him?
The Arab Spring has become the Western Winter, brought about by two American presidents who thought they could kill without moral justification or painful consequence. We should come home from these barbaric places and leave them alone. We should trade with them, since they want to buy our iPads and washing machines and blue jeans, but let them run their own governments.
Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel. He is author of “It Is Dangerous to Be Right When the Government Is Wrong: The Case for Personal Freedom” (Thomas Nelson, 2011).