A Cairo court has convicted 43 men and women of using foreign funds to foment unrest inside Egypt in connection with the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak.
Sixteen of those convicted were Americans. All but one, Robert Becker of the National Democratic Institute, had already departed. Becker fled this week rather than serve two years in an Egyptian prison.
And U.S. interventionists are in an uproar.
"Appalling and offensive," said Sen. Pat Leahy of the verdicts.
"The 2011 revolution was supposed to end the repressive climate under Mubarak," said The Wall Street Journal of our ally of 30 years whom Hillary Clinton called a family friend.
This "crackdown," decries The Washington Post, was defended with "cheap nationalism and conspiracy theories." As for Egypt's proposed new law for regulating foreign-funded groups promoting democracy, it is "based on ... repressive and xenophobic logic."
Yet the questions raised by both the Cairo and Moscow crackdowns on U.S.-funded "democracy" groups cannot be so airily dismissed.
For these countries have more than a small point.
While U.S.-funded democracy promotion is portrayed as benign, the National Endowment for Democracy, the International Republican Institute, DNI and Freedom House have been linked to revolutions that brought down regimes in Serbia, Ukraine, Georgia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, and nearly succeeded in Belarus.
People who pride themselves on bringing about revolutions should not whine when targeted regimes treat them like troublemakers.
And who directs these "pro-democracy" groups?
Before 2011, Freedom House was headed by ex-CIA Director Jim Woolsey, who says we are in "World War IV." The IRI is chaired by John McCain, who pushed for U.S. intervention in the Russia-Georgia war and is clamoring for air strikes on Syria.
The DNI chairman is ex-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who says: "We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall, and we see further than other countries into the future."
Is it not understandable to patriots of the original "Don't Tread on Me" republic that foreigners might resent paid U.S. agents operating inside their countries to alter the direction of their politics?
We have a right to advance our democratic values, we say.
But for the United States to push, for example, for freedom of speech, press and assembly in the People's Republic of China is to promote political action that must lead to the fall of Beijing's single-party state.
Do we not understand why that might be seen by the Chinese Communist Party of Xi Jinping as subversive?
In the Cold War Americans learned that not only was the Communist Party U.S.A. a wholly owned subsidiary of Joseph Stalin's Comintern, that party had deeply infiltrated the U.S. government and Hollywood. In the late '40s and early '50s, America was convulsed over communist penetration of our institutions.
Martin Luther King Jr. was wiretapped by J. Edgar Hoover at the direction of JFK and Attorney General Robert Kennedy because he refused to dump an adviser, Stanley Levison, who was a communist and thought to be a Soviet spy.
Were the Kennedys being "repressive and xenophobic"?
If we were apoplectic that Soviet-funded communists were seeking to influence our culture and politics, why ought not other countries, with cultures and institutions far different from our own, react even as we did?
In the stricter societies of the Islamic world, governments have enacted laws regarding alcohol, premarital sex, divorce, abortion, homosexuality, gay marriage and religious conversions different from any such laws in the U.S.A.
In some of those countries, such activities can produce floggings, amputations, stonings and beheadings. In many of these countries, children are indoctrinated in the Islamic faith in government-supported schools. Not here.
We may deplore this, but where do we get the right to intervene in the internal affairs of these countries if they do not threaten us?
And are we really consistent in our democracy promotion?
How many U.S.-funded agents of Freedom House, NED, IRI and NDI are in Bahrain demanding elections that would permit the Shia majority to dump the king and oust our 5th Fleet from its Persian Gulf base?
How would we react if Riyadh funneled billions of petrodollars into organizations and agents to finance Wahhabi madrassas and assist local Muslim communities in the U.S.A. with their efforts to enact sharia law?
What lies behind U.S. interventions in the internal affairs of countries all over the world?
There is, first, the residual Cold War mindset. What we did for Solidarity in Poland was right and successful, and we cannot give up this tool of democracy just because the Cold War is over.
Second, there is the arrogance of power, the End-of-History babble about democracy being the last, best hope of earth to which all nations should aspire — and if they don't, give them a kick in that direction.
Once the most admired of nations, America is no longer so.
Why not? Because of our compulsive interventions, military and political, in the internal affairs of nations that are none of our business.
Defund the American Comintern, and bring the outside agitators home.