Obama’s dangerous passivity on Egypt and Syria on display

Obama looks like a president in full flight from a world that looks nothing like what he imagined when he took office. The president saw himself soothing U.S. relations with Muslim nations while gently extracting U.S. troops from Iraq and focusing his energy on other regions and issues: Asia; nuclear arms control; Israeli-Palestinian peace. What he got was an epochal upheaval in the very place from which he had hoped to disengage.

All presidents face the challenge of adapting to the problems they are presented with rather than those they expect. It could be argued that George W. Bush reacted to the attacks of Sept. 11 with a too-radical reshaping of his worldview and international ambitions. Obama’s response to the Arab revolutions has veered to the opposite extreme: a clinging to his overtaken priorities, coupled with a stubborn refusal to recognize that the Arab crises must be a top priority of his foreign policy…

If there is any virtue to this record, it is that the reaction to it is reviving an internationalist wing of the Democratic Party that, by the end of the Bush administration, appeared nearly dead. Not just the usual neocons but Democratic senators such as Carl Levin and Robert Menendez are faulting Obama’s failure to act more forcefully in Syria. Not just Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham but the New York Times editorial board aredemanding a suspension of military aid to Egypt.