That brings us to the biggest losers in Egypt’s transformation – Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Tehran’s clients in Syria and Lebanon. ~Jackson Diehl
Diehl makes a lot of debatable claims in his op-ed, but this one stands out for being positively delusional. If political change in Egypt is harmful for Hizbullah, the group’s leaders have been doing a very convincing job of pretending otherwise. They have been some of the loudest cheerleaders for the Egyptian protesters. This is not because most of the protesters and Hizbullah share the same agenda, but because they are undermining one of Hizbullah’s regional enemies. They probably calculate that anything that destabilizes a government hostile to them works to their advantage, and they are probably guessing that a fairly reliable U.S. ally will become much less reliable in the future. Egyptian liberals and democrats might or might not identify with the March 14 coalition’s politics, but one effect of their opposition to the Egyptian regime is to weaken resistance to Iran and its allies in the region. The point here isn’t to approve or disapprove of this development, but to recognize it for what it is.
Since Hizbullah and its coalition allies represent the majority of Lebanese, they are quite content with the emergence of “people power” in authoritarian Arab states. When we look at the regional balance of power, one of the more significant adversaries of Iranian influence has been seriously weakened and it will be preoccupied with internal problems for some time. The Green movement may want to appropriate the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings as inspirational models for their own struggle, but that doesn’t mean that they can obtain the same result. For that matter, it has never been clear that all of the Green movement supported full regime change of the sort that Tunisians and Egyptians have been demanding. Some in the movement may want that, but if the Green movement is best understood as an Iranian civil rights movement rather than a revolutionary one it does not even have the same political goal that opponents of Ben Ali and Mubarak had. To the extent that their opposition has focused on Ahmadinejad rather than on the entire system, their political goals are much more limited. As long as the movement’s leaders remain committed to Iran’s form of government, the success of the Iranian opposition in securing some political reforms will not directly lead to the toppling of the Iranian regime and it may never result in this. If one wants to applaud political change in Egypt as ultimately good for the U.S., as Diehl does, it’s simply not credible to ignore its less desirable consequences and pretend that the opposite will occur.
Update: Another danger of renewed American interest in preaching democratic universalism is that it will encourage this sort of argument:
We all admire America’s current professions of support for human rights — and the apparent end to the reset/realist Obama policies of the last two years — but soon some will ask for consistency. Why do we welcome the demise of a Mubarak, but keep quiet about a Castro or Chávez? Are Cubans freer than Egyptians? Did a Mubarak have more blood on his hands than a Castro? Why celebrate the freedom in the Cairo streets, but help facilitate its growing suppression in Moscow? If we are, admirably, to privilege democracy in the case of Egypt, then surely such ideological tilting must apply to democratic Israel over its autocratic neighbors, or democratic India over autocratic Pakistan, or democratic Colombia over autocratic Venezuela, and so on.
One of the likely consequences of eagerly indulging in democratism now is that it will strengthen all of those advocates of democracy promotion in the U.S. and contribute to the ongoing ideological distortion of U.S. foreign policy. Applauding democratization and dismissing reasonable concerns about the consequences will simply encourage all of the most meddlesome interventionists to demand that American policy conform to their recommendations.