From The Economist:
WHEN people took to the streets of Tunis, France offered to help President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s security forces. When they filled the squares of Cairo, Italy praised Hosni Mubarak as the wisest of men. And when they were slaughtered in Tripoli, the Czech Republic said catastrophe would follow the fall of Muammar Qaddafi, Malta defended Libya’s sovereignty and Italy predicted that the protests would lead to an Islamic emirate.
With every new Arab uprising, some European country has placed itself on the wrong side of history. So it is no surprise that the European Union has been slow to tell regimes to listen to demands for democracy and to condemn violent suppression.
The end of communism in the east was a great blessing for Europe. The fall of dictators in the south could be too, though the transition is bound to be more uncertain. In 1989 western Europe’s communist foes collapsed; the people rose up against the resented Soviet occupier and were attracted by the West. In the Arab world it is the West’s awkward allies that are falling, and the people there have long resented Western overlordship.
So far the revolts of 2011 have been strikingly free of Islamist, anti-imperial and even anti-Israeli ideology. Such sentiments could yet be stirred if Europe appears to be colluding with hated rulers. The uprisings have removed Europe’s dilemma over pursing stability or democracy—its interests against its values. Stability is gone; interests and values are the same. The only answer is to embrace, help and protect those who want democracy.