In the days leading up to Ben Ali's flight, America took a publicly neutral stance toward the protests, and Secretary of State Clinton stated that the United States was "not taking sides." A few Western sympathizers of the Tunisian opposition were outraged by the administration’s neutral position, but it was actually an impressive example of not inserting the United States into a purely internal matter and allowing Tunisians to work out their own affairs. ... Had the White House overtly endorsed the cause of the protesters, it is possible that this would have lent credibility to Ben Ali’s claims that outside forces were responsible for the uprising.
On the other hand, Lee Smith suggests that a speech Clinton delivered in Doha last Thursday actually played a role in the Tunisian coup, calling it "a shot across the bow of the Arab political order." Abe Greenwald scoffs at such suggestions and criticizes Clinton for taking an officially neutral stance during the ordeal:
It’s one thing to note that the revolution in Tunisia, like all infant revolutions, could lead to better or worse conditions. It’s quite another not to take the side of the oppressed at the outset especially after delivering a “blast” to corrupt Arab governments. And especially after leaked diplomatic cables show American officials describing the regime of ousted Tunisian president Ben Ali as corrupt and “sclerotic,” with “no checks in the system.”
The Obama administration feels that the U.S. has no dog in the fight between freedom and autocracy. As a country, we’ve been there before pre-9/11, to be exact. Look how peacefully those days came to a resolution. Still, one must pay lip service to tradition. So every now and then, the secretary of state or the president talk of reforming stagnant political orders and we all applaud. It’s kind of like saying “Bless you” when someone sneezes.
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