A reader writes:
I'm not sure why so many commentators continue to express confusion about why the "freedom agenda" was abandoned after 2005. After the "Cedar Revolution" in Lebanon, neo-conservatives were giddy about their success in instituting the new "Arab Spring". Lebanon was liberated from Syrian occupation, Mubarak announced that he would permit rivals to challenge him in September, Iraq would hold elections at the end of the year, Palestine would follow in January, and Sa'udi Arabia, Jordan, Libya, etc. announced "promising" reforms. So what happened?
Presidential elections in Egypt were hopelessly flawed and the Muslim Brotherhood was "allowed" to win roughly 20% of available seats in the November parliamentary elections. This was Mubarak's sharp rebuke to Rice's speech in June, and the Bush Administration acquiesced. In December, only 8% of Iraqis voted for the list of staunch U.S. ally Iyad Allawi. (The U.S. obviously came to terms with the Shi'ite victors, but the point had still been made). In January, Hamas emerged victorious in the Palestinian elections. Democratic "reforms" in other Arab countries, of course, amounted to nothing.
While the commitment to the "freedom agenda" began to wane with each successive electoral rebuke of candidates identified as key allies, the victory of Hamas hammered the final nail into the coffin. With U.S. rejection of the democratic victor in Palestine clear and vocal - and backed by the decision to channel arms to Fatah - any shred of credibility (and there was never very much) for U.S. calls for democratic reform were gone.