Why won't Obama do more to promote freedom abroad?

More striking than his country-specific hesitancy has been the absence of any high-level, overarching embrace of the strategic opportunity. Two decades ago, as the Iron Curtain shredded, the United States led a Western alliance that jumped at the chance to consolidate democracy from Slovakia to Estonia. The chance to nurture democracy in the heart of the Islamic world has not elicited a comparable response…

Obama’s half-hearted advocacy of democracy reflects, his supporters argue, his hard-headed pragmatism. He needs a supply route through Russia to NATO troops in Afghanistan. He wants Chinese cooperation on currency rates. He’s not going to let feel-good human rights advocacy get in the way.

But his stance also reflects his own brand of idealism, which values international law and alliances more than the promotion of freedom. The democrats’ uprising in Iran threatened his hopes of negotiating a nuclear agreement with Iran’s rulers. Aid to Syria’s democrats requires approval from the U.N. Security Council, which is unattainable without Russian and Chinese acquiescence.

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