Is Obama to blame for the Arab Spring’s failures?

Taken together, these disparate comments actually add up to a coherent critique. Obama’s biggest failing in the Arab Spring is not that he chose the wrong side; it is that he has waffled back and forth. He has been consistently indecisive, irresolute and reluctant to act. As a result he has alienated both regimes and revolutionaries, and squandered U.S. leverage.

Before pushing Mubarak out, Obama embraced him; now his aides are criticizing — but so far tolerating — the military’s attempts to hang on to power. Obama insists Assad must give up power and facilitates military aid for the rebels at the same time that he endorses a U.N.-brokered settlement between the regime and opposition. He demands change in Bahrain while continuing to back the regime even when it refuses to reform.

In short, Obama has made a difference during the Arab Spring mostly by not making a difference. By failing to decisively use U.S. aid, diplomatic influence and military power to support the removal of dictators and the beginning of democratic transformation, he has helped tip the balance toward the old regimes — or chaos. No, the mess is not his fault. But he deserves a share of the blame.

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