In an article titled What Obama and American Liberals Don’t Understand About the Arab Spring Hamid writes:
It is worth noting that Bush’s short-lived embrace of Mideast democratic reform—despite his deep personal unpopularity throughout the region—did not appear to hurt the Arab reform movement, and, if anything, did the opposite. This is something that reformers themselves reluctantly admit.Liberals want Arabs to like us. Conservatives want Arabs to respect us. The former will never happen no matter what we do. The latter will happen to the extent that we remain strong and adhere to our principles of encouraging freedom and democracy around the world. In the Arab world as elsewhere, the people will always follow the strong horse and despise the weak one, but strength is not a virtue among liberals. It is to many of them a symptom of imperialism, hegemony, and inegalitarianism.
In 2005, at the height of the first Arab spring, the liberal Egyptian publisher and activist Hisham Kassem said, “Eighty percent of political freedom in this country is the result of U.S. pressure.” And it isn’t just liberals who felt this way. Referring to the Bush administration’s efforts, the prominent Muslim Brotherhood figure Abdel Moneim Abul Futouh told me in August 2006, “Everyone knows it....We benefited, everyone benefited, and the Egyptian people benefited.”
Liberals had often told the world—and, perhaps more importantly, themselves—that the Bush administration’s destructive policies were a historic anomaly. When a Democrat was elected, America would undo the damage. For many liberals, including myself, this was what Obama could offer that no one else could—a president with a Muslim name, who had grown up in a Muslim country, who seemed to have an intuitive understanding of the place of grievance in Arab public life.
But, after President Obama’s brief honeymoon period, the familiar disappointments returned. In a span of just one year, the number of Arabs who said they were “discouraged” by the Obama administration’s Middle East policies shot up from 15 percent to 63 percent, according to a University of Maryland/Zogby poll.
By the time the protests began in December 2010, attitudes toward the U.S. had hit rock bottom. In several Arab countries, including Egypt, U.S. favorability ratings were lower under Obama than they were under Bush. Indeed, an odd current of “Bush nostalgia” had been very much evident in Arab opposition circles. In May 2010, a prominent Brotherhood member complained to me: “For Obama, the issue of democracy is fifteenth on his list of priorities....There’s no moment of change like there was under Bush.”
Thus the current administration has chosen to "lead from behind," to give the world the impression that we see ourselves as a nation in decline and that the last thing we want to do is promote and push our values onto other cultures. It's feared by our leadership that such would be taken as an insult, but to those who have given or risked their lives in Tahrir Square American political values are, as they were for the Chinese at Tiananmen Square, a source of hope and inspiration.
Arabs don't like us, the call us kafir (infidel), but it is to us - not Russia, not China, not other Arab countries - they turn when they yearn for freedom and need help.
Read Hamid's column. It really is insightful.