Published for The Washington Post, September 17, 2012

The anti-American violence spreading across the Middle East is not, as some suggest, blowback for President Obama supporting the overthrow of friendly dictators — irresponsibly pushing out autocrats who kept a lid on the forces of Islamic radicalism. The current unrest is indeed a result of Obama’s feckless policies in the Middle East — but overthrowing dictators is not one of them.

When tens of thousands of Egyptians poured into Tahrir Square last year to demand an end to dictatorship, the Obama administration stood with the Egyptian regime. Obama’s handpicked envoy, Frank Wisner, declared that Hosni Mubarak “must stay in office” to implement reforms. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the United States announced, “Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.” The hopes of ordinary Egyptians that Obama might stand with them soon gave way to disappointment and anger. Demonstrators began carrying signs that declared “Shame on you Obama!” and showed Mubarak depicted as Obama in his iconic “hope” image — with a caption that read “No You Can’t.”

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