The analogy for American and British actions 150 years apart is that in both cases, the great power refrained from doing evil actions that would significantly harm the good side in each cause, and that in both cases the great power got little credit for its restraint.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
While Republican leaders are now claiming to support the Arab Spring, it wasn't so clear a few months back, and Obama had other pressures to back Mubarak that he ignored. The tepid level of approval or even interest in the Arab world to the US response suggests the Arab people are unimpressed, however.
Wiki has a good article on Britain and the US Civil War - Obama actually comes off a little better than my analogy suggests, because Britain did do some negative things (but could've done much worse), while the US has done some positive things in Egypt and Libya while doing darn little in Bahrain.
I'm guessing the lack of credit in both cases is because "do no evil" is assumed in most people's moral analysis. Given how international relations are traditionally conducted, it may deserve more applause than it gets.
The other obvious problem for the US in the Arab world is our support for Israel, especially in relation to the West Bank/Gaza/Jerusalem issue. I think foreigners fail to understand how little room for maneuver exists in US national politics on this issue. Obama is getting blowback in Democratic circles for being slightly more explicit on 1967 borders as an initial basis for negotiations. Netanyahu is playing a double game of indefinite postponement/opposition to a Palestinian state, or using Israeli occupation as the intial basis and make the Palestinians trade away West Bank land and East Jerusalem in return for getting back some of their land. In American politics from the far right Republicans to many Democrats, that's just fine. Unfortunately, Obama is pushing about as hard as he can.
UPDATE: forgot to add it's a lucky thing we don't have the Commies with us anymore, or the US reaction to Arab Spring could've been a lot worse.