I think the president is going to have to offer tough commentary on Libya sometime soon, since the following pattern is unsustainable: ad hoc, erratic, and frequent sermonizing condemning the authoritarianism of the pro-American strongman Mubarak, despite having lectured in 2009 about not meddling in the internal affairs of Iran when nearly a million people risked their lives to demonstrate for human rights — and now more silence as Libyans are butchered by the unhinged thug Gaddafi.
Given all the complexities, consistency is as necessary as it is difficult. At some point, the president is going to have to realize that the brutal totalitarian regimes of the Middle East — an Iran or a Libya — deserve the same degree of censure, if not more, than less savage dictatorships of the Mubarak stripe. There is a reason, after all, why BBC and CNN reporters are not in the streets of Tripoli and Tehran as they were in Tahrir Square. If the president’s baffling silence continues, observers will conclude that, to the degree a regime uses greater force and kills more of its own, or to the degree that it has a more atrocious record on human rights, or to the degree that it is more anti-American, it enjoys greater immunity from serial American criticism. The only mystery is, why?