It’s not easy being a hypocrite

Poor Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama. The sudden popular uprisings against governments all over the Middle East must be causing them headaches.

When protests started against a brutal dictator they had supported for decades, like Mubarak in Egypt, they tried to appease both sides by appealing for calm and hoping that things would blow over either with minor concessions to the protestors or with a transfer of power to another authoritarian leader (like Suleiman or the military) that would continue to be a US client. The awkwardness of this attempt was clearly visible during the days of protest.

It must have been a great relief to them when protests erupted in a country like Iran where they dislike the leaders, because then they could try and restore their credibility by offering full-throated support for the democratic demands of the protestors and condemning the efforts of the Iranian government to suppress and intimidate them.

But now protests have also started sprouting in Bharain and Yemen against authoritarian rulers who are strong US allies, and Obama and Clinton have gone silent. If they if they are asked to make a statement it will be to equivocate again like they did in Egypt and call for peace and restraint by all parties, which is the code to say they like the present government to continue but to give token concessions to the protestors. This is even though the rulers in Bahrain have unleashed riot police and tear gas on the demonstrators and many people have been killed and injured. Meanwhile reports from Yemen say one demonstrator was killed by police there.

And now Libya is undergoing protests and this is even more difficult. Gaddafi has always been ruthless dictator but Libya used to be considered an enemy of the US (Ronald Reagan bombed the country killing Gaddafi’s young daughter, something to remember these days when we are treated to the nauseating spectacle of being told what a nice guy Reagan was) and then later became friendly. So how should the US treat such an erratic person? One can imagine Obama and Clinton scratching their heads and wondering: What to do? What to do?

This is what happens when you do not consistently act on principle (such as supporting democratic ideals everywhere) or act out of brutal realism (supporting every regime of whatever stripe that serves your own interests) but instead try to have it both ways, paying lip-service to democratic ideas while secretly pursuing realist goals.

Meanwhile the Iranian president is no slouch when it comes to hypocrisy, praising the Egyptian demonstrators to the skies while two people die when his riot police attack the demonstrators in Teheran. Hillary Clinton actually had the nerve to criticize the Iranian government for hypocrisy over Egypt. I never know how these politicians manage to say these things with a straight face. Actually, Clinton and Ahmadinejad make a perfect pair.


  1. Eric says

    Mano --

    To be fair, support for dictators we like & condemnation for dictators we dislike isn’t a particularly new development from the U.S. State Dept. The only difference now is that we’ve replaced Communism with Muslim Extremism as the bugbear for determining whether a dictator is friendly. Let’s not forget that Saddam Hussein was our ally long before he was the “butcher of Baghdad,” just because he was a secular leader willing to fight Iran in the late 70s & 80s.

  2. says


    You are right. But usually the switch takes place over longer periods of time. What is new here is the close juxtaposition of the events from one day to the next which would be embarrassing if they had the ability to be embarrassed!

  3. Eric says

    Mano --

    I disagree. I think they have the ability to be embarrassed; I question whether the mass media has the ability to embarrass them.

    I find it very strange that, over the past several decades, the media has grown willing to jump on any possible embarrassing aspect of a politician’s personal life they can dig out, but completely unwilling to address massive professional failings for which they should be held accountable.

    Compared to the free pass Kennedy got for his philandering, and the raking over the coals Nixon got for Watergate, it’s a remarkable transition.

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