EVEN when the Arab world was in deep winter, I was an early supporter of its spring.
Inspired by a Jewish friend who 15 years ago launched an organisation called "Free the 400 Million", I gave lectures at the Oxford Union and wrote columns around the world calling for the end of dictatorships in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab despotisms.
"Where is the Arab George Washington?" one of the columns asked.
How could hundreds of millions of people live without a freedom movement to liberate them? Why would they voluntarily submit to a thugocracy?
When the Arab Spring eventually broke, I was one of its most vocal champions.
I even criticised the Israeli government for not coming out more forcefully for democratic reforms in Egypt and for implying that Hosni Mubarak was somehow a friend and ally when in reality he was a tyrant who ruled Egypt with an iron fist for three decades.
Throughout all this advocacy, I was well aware that democracy was not a panacea for guaranteeing a country's morality, that Hitler was democratically elected, as was Hamas.
But I stood squarely by the speech given by a young Benjamin Netanyahu that I had organised in Oxford 20 years ago where he said that the secret to Middle East peace was Arab democratisation.
And how do I feel now, when Muhamed Morsi in Egypt turned out to be a president who used his victory at the polls to curb democratic freedoms and press liberties?
Or when democracy in Libya led to the murder of our ambassador, or when the opposition in Syria certainly encompasses many radical Islamists who, if they defeat mass murderer Bashar al-Assad, might institute sharia law?
Here is my answer: I believe in democracy with all my heart and believe that it can - and will, eventually - prevail over a nation's failures. But democracy can only work if it is accompanied by a constitution with a Bill of Rights guaranteeing minority civil liberties.
Democracy alone, without rights enshrined in a constitution, can be a dangerous tool in the hands of fanatics who would use populism to dismantle individual freedoms.
Hitler used his electoral victories to have himself voted fuhrer, dictator for life.
Hamas likewise used its electoral victory to dismantle democracy and Morsi was well on his way to doing the same.
The people and their leaders can never be counted on to preserve and protect individual rights. That's something that has to be ingrained within a nation's constitution, as it is in ours. There must be a powerful judiciary that can overrule legislation and declare it unconstitutional, even if it is passed by a democracy.
It is ultimately a constitution guaranteeing universal freedoms that can right an errant course set by a majority that seeks to trample on individual liberties.
The US has witnessed the passing of the Alien and Sedition Act, under John Adams, that made it a crime to criticise the executive.
It likewise witnessed the mass internment of Japanese during the Second World War, not to mention the much more egregious sins of Jim Crow and segregation that foully denied individual liberties.
These wrongs were only put right - and in the case of segregation it took nearly a century after the end of slavery - because of a constitution that guaranteed individual liberties and a judiciary that had the power to force the executive to implement those rights.
True, the same constitution enshrined slavery, which is why even constitutions need to be modified. But imagine what America's democracy would be like without its Bill of Rights. Too frightening to contemplate.
I wonder whether or not the US should not be promulgating a universal Bill of Rights that we demand be accepted by nations that seek our help - as in Syria - that must first be adopted by the leadership of revolutionary movements prior to our agreeing to provide military or economic aid.
Otherwise, much as I absolutely insist that Syria must be punished for gassing its own people - and it must be - does it make sense to support one tyranny to replace another?
I realise that in many ways this is impractical. Rebel leaders might adopt an American-imposed guarantee of democracy and a bill of rights that they can later rescind.
Also, they may not be the same leaders once the revolution is complete. But it makes a lot more sense than simply getting no guarantees as to future behaviour.
Likewise, the US appears far too timid when it comes to imposing its will on countries that it has liberated with significant blood and treasure, as was the case when it did not insist that Iraq sign a peace treaty with Israel as soon as its new government was established.
While it is unethical to insist that countries liberated by the US abide by a Pax Americana, there is nothing immoral about insisting that nations that we liberate live by a universal code of morality that demands rights for minorities, women, gays, freedom of the press, and freedom of worship. Oh, and a demand that a country like Iraq not indulge in Israel-baiting and toxic antisemitism.
The alternative is for the US to continue to send its young men and women to die in places like Afghanistan, only to see corrupt dictators like Hamid Karzai - who viciously attacks US troops as murderers - be the beneficiaries of so much American sacrifice.
But one thing is for sure. I continue to believe that constitutional democracy is the only real hope for the earth's inhabitants and that - difficult as it is to see - all humanity, deep in their hearts (and hopefully not too deep), yearn to be free.