Nobody could have anticipated such a speedily dramatic reaction to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's prescient warning in Qatar earlier this month that Arab states risked "sinking into the sand" if they did not clean up corruption and quicken their glacial pace of political and economic reform. Now the Obama administration must wrestle with cataclysmic changes of a pace it may not have foreseen, balancing the desire for the advance of democratic principles against concern lest the forces of Islamist extremism prosper.
It is one of America’s grandest tenets that the freedoms that are the cornerstone of the American reason for being are not quixotic meanderings but basic rights for all mankind. Mr. Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner himself, echoed this when he reasoned with visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao, who has locked up Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner. Mr Hu conceded that “a lot still needs to be done in China in terms of human rights,” a position made abundantly clear by the deletion of these remarks in Chinese media. When China’s Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, visiting the United States last year, supported the concept of free speech in a CNN interview, his remarks were similarly censored in Chinese media.