Few in fits of introspection blame endemic cultural practices such as tribalism, gender apartheid, and religious intolerance as equally responsible for the general misery. A Mubarak, Qaddafi, Ben Ali, King Abdullah, or Assad is thus not a natural expression of a society’s collective values and customs, but supposedly an aberration, and one forced upon Middle Easterners by an array of often sinister foreign interests.
An outsider might look at the last four months in the region and reach some reductionist conclusions. Americans treat dictatorships with more deference than they do existing democracies. It is wiser for a dictatorship to be anti-American than pro-American. Survival is likelier to be assured by launching brutal, deadly crackdowns, banning the media, and ignoring global opinion than by trying to prevent mass casualties, allowing international television into the country, or accommodating U.S. concerns. The effort to acquire nuclear weapons wins exemption, as in Iran, while the surrender of such programs invites intervention, as in Libya. Oil trumps most considerations, accounting for the European attacks on Libya once the rebels seemed assured of ousting Qaddafi, the American lack of interest in pushing popular protests in the Gulf, and the American braggadocio in ordering the oil-poor dictators of Egypt and Tunisia to step down. The possibility of using American force will be predicated on international authorization, and the actuality of it will be not be decisive.
The whole thing is here.