The old hawkish lie was that the Iraq war and Bush’s “freedom agenda” caused or inspired the “Arab Spring.” That was when many Republicans regarded it as a good thing and a vindication of Bush. The new hawkish lie is that the “freedom agenda” could have prevented the “Arab Spring” from happening. Here is Romney in an interview with Sheldon Adelson’s newspaper, Israel Hayom:

President [George W.] Bush urged [deposed Egyptian President] Hosni Mubarak to move toward a more democratic posture, but President Obama abandoned the freedom agenda and we are seeing today a whirlwind of tumult in the Middle East in part because these nations did not embrace the reforms that could have changed the course of their history, in a more peaceful manner.

What exactly was the “more peaceful manner” of political change that the “freedom agenda” was offering? In Iraq, the “freedom agenda” involved a devastating war filled with sectarian violence and the creation of a sectarian and semi-authoritarian government. In Gaza, it produced an election victory for Hamas. When the 2005 Egyptian parliamentary elections resulted in significant gains for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Bush administration reversed course and more or less gave up on pressuring Mubarak on political reform. The error that Romney makes is in asserting that just a few more years of U.S. pressure for political reform in Egypt would have made a significant difference.

Had Bush pressured Mubarak even more to “move toward a more democratic posture,” he probably would have been ignored. If Mubarak had yielded to that pressure, the eventual political outcome would probably have been quite similar: an entrenched military regime co-existing with elected Muslim Brotherhood politicians. If Romney is “very concerned” about Morsi’s election, he shouldn’t be in favor of democracy promotion in Egypt. Such are the weird contortions that Republicans have to put themselves through in order to endorse the Bush-era policy of the democracy promotion, condemn the outcome of democratic elections when Islamists win, and find fault with Obama for not supporting the sort of policy that would have resulted in the outcome they condemn.

The places most influenced by the “freedom agenda” have suffered terribly because of its effects, and the countries where we have seen the most significant uprisings in the last year and a half were the ones that were never part of the “freedom agenda.”