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Who Cares About Libya? Republicans Should Stay on Message

So far, the Arab ballot box has given us Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, a supposedly moderate Islamist party in Tunisia, an Iranian-allied regime in Iraq, and... a putative success in Libya, celebrated by the Wall Street Journal editorial page with the pronouncement, "Once again, Arabs demonstrate their desire for self-government."

UPDATE: Al-Ahram reported July 10, "Wartime rebel Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril took an early lead in Libya's national assembly election, according to partial tallies released on Monday that pointed to a weaker than expected showing for Islamist parties. If confirmed that trend would set Libya apart from other Arab Spring countries such as Egypt and Tunisia where groups with overtly religious agendas have done well - although Jibril insists his multi-party alliance is neither secular nor liberal and includes sharia Islamic law among its core values." (Emphasis added; hat tip to Andrew Bostom).

The "once again" part is dubious, for the WSJ does not mention where else this "desire for self-government" has produced the desired result. But the Republican establishment, having signed on to the Bush Freedom Agenda and its gigantic cost in blood and treasure, cannot gracefully back away from a discredited ideological commitment. While the obnoxious military and the unspeakable Muslim Brotherhood square off in Egypt, and the tech-savvy democrats of Tahrir Square disappear, the WSJ praises the one Arab election that appears to justify  the grand enterprise of exporting democracy. Why beat up on other conservatives? Because focus on the supposed Libyan success lets the Obama administration off the hook at a moment when Republicans should pillory the president for coddling a terrorist nest like the Muslim Brotherhood.

The WSJ editors wrote:

It's fashionable these days to say that NATO's intervention in Libya left that Arab country no better off, but tell that to the Libyans who joyously voted in free elections on Saturday. An election alone does not a democracy make, but Libyans understand it's better than the tyranny of Gadhafi & Sons, Inc.

The vote for a new legislative body wasn't perfect but went off better than expected. Armed groups in the eastern, oil-rich region around Benghazi stormed a couple of polling stations, and tribal groups in the south tried to sabotage the vote. Yet a majority—with an estimated turnout of 60%—defied the threats. The post-election celebrations around Libya were the most spirited since Moammar Gadhafi's demise in October.

Preliminary results indicate a strong showing by a secular alliance headed by a former rebel leader, Mahmoud Jibril. The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists may also claim a large share of seats in the 200-member General National Congress once official results come out this week.