That’s what Michael Ledeen is saying is true in a number of ways. One is that as was the case with the Shah, Mubarak is being sent mixed messages:

…Mubarak has to know exactly what we want.  Do we know what we want?  My impression is that we are confused, just as in 1979.  Obama’s statement the other day (yesterday if I remember rightly) was not encouraging.  “The future of Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people” and we will support them.  What does that mean?  There’s a fight going on, and we have to take sides.  I think Mubarak is entitled to wonder just what we want, and that’s dangerous, because it means that his decisions will be driven at least in part by guesswork and suspicion.

As I’ve said, that we have come to this impasse shows a long-standing policy failure, just as it did in Iran in 1979.  We should have supported democratic opposition forces all along (footnote:  it’s quite amusing to hear former officials proclaiming “we can’t support dictatorship” when they did precisely that when they were in office.  Including some, like C. Rice, who promised to support democrats and then didn’t.).  But we didn’t, the London Telegraph’s misleading headline writers notwithstanding.  Now we have no attractive options.  Too bad.

It’s always nice to support democracy, but what happens when democracy is not nice? What if “democracy” takes the form of a populist uprising in support of an Islamic state? Are we to support that, even if the result is a loss of democracy itself? Many movements which resulted in total loss of freedom began as populist in nature. What if the majority are willing to jettison democracy in the name of Islam? Is that democratic?

And what is populism? Is that necessarily good by definition? Why? Because it’s “The People”? How many people have been killed in the name of “The People”?

Even in this country (and sometimes even among people I like), I have seen a sloppy tendency to follow the thoughts of others rather than reach a conclusion as a result of independent thinking. An egotistical loudmouth I will not name glared at me for not applauding him when he loudly proclaimed what it was that he considered “the number one issue in this country!” I didn’t mean to hurt his feelings or anything like that; I just didn’t think it was the number one issue, so why would I have applauded? I mean, we are Americans, right? It’s not as if we have to applaud a line in a speech just because everyone else applauds, and it isn’t as if the speaker is Stalin and penalties attach. But I have seen too many Americans (across the spectrum) who are just willing to go along with the loudest voices and the biggest numbers, and it worries me, because if it’s that way here I can only imagine what it’s like in a place without our long tradition of freedom. In fact, if I had more balls I should have yelled “HOW DARE YOU GLARE AT ME FOR FAILING TO APPLAUD!” at the guy, whom I am too cowardly (or too sensible) to name, and whose “number one issue” I am too cowardly to mention. It’s a peripheral point involving a much-discussed domestic issue having nothing to do with Egypt, and I neither want to single out anyone or start an argument. Because whenever you say you disagree with a self-appointed leader, some follower or another will interepret that as an invitation for debate, and I find such debates tedious — especially debates with someone who is a follower of someone else.

If you think something because someone told you that you must think it, do you really think that thing? Or are you following? There is something about being obligated to applaud when you don’t agree that strikes me as inherently tyrannical, and if there is one thing I distrust more than leaders who demand obedience, it is their followers who enforce it. Debating such people is a complete waste of time. (Probably another of my personality problems, but it’s a reason I prefer blogging to getting in people’s faces and yelling at them.)

Crowds are fickle, though, because people tend to go along with whatever the group seems to demand, and they are easily herded easily. People want to be leaders and followers. What starts as a democratic movement can quickly be manipulated into something tyrannical. 

Calling such a process “democracy” is just a step away from joining in the crowd’s applause.

Needless to say, there was plenty of applause when the Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran:

…on December 10 and 11, a “total of 6 to 9 million” anti-shah demonstrators marched throughout Iran. According to one historian, “even discounting for exaggeration, these figures may represent the largest protest event in history.” [104]

It is almost unheard of for a revolution to involve as much as 1 percent of a country’s population. The French Revolution of 1789, the Russian Revolution of 1917, perhaps the Romanian Revolution of 1989 – these may have passed the 1 percent mark. Yet in Iran, more than 10% of the country marched in anti-shah demonstrations on December 10 and 11, 1978.[13]

I realize that the 10% figure is hardly “democracy,” but just look at the election results when a referendum was held:

On March 30 and 31 (Farvardin 10, 11) a referendum was held over whether to replace the monarchy with an “Islamic Republic” — a term not defined on the ballot. Khomeini called for a massive turnout[149] and only the National Democratic Front, Fadayan, and several Kurdish parties opposed the vote.[149] It was announced that 98.2% had voted in favor.[149]

Probably wouldn’t have been a good idea to vote “NO.”

Much less be caught not applauding….