Really? Continue what efforts, exactly? What does that sentence even mean? Iranians were not protesting in order to set an example for the White House. What they needed from Obama was the courage and will to ensure that America would stand as an example to the world — of active and committed support to their calls for freedom. What they got can be summed up by the moment in which America, without a peep of protest, nodded along with the ”election” by acclamation of Iran’s government to a seat on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
The “bearing witness” and “arc” references have become a refrain. In December, when the Iranian government cracked down violently on mass protests, Obama put out a statement promising: “We will continue to bear witness.” This past March, while wishing all and sundry a Happy Nowruz, Obama wanted the Iranian people to know that the U.S. believes in “an international order that bends the arc of history in the direction of justice.” (That would be the same international order in which 155 of the U.N.’s 192 member states voted last month to give Libya a seat on the UN Human Rights Council?)
Obama has also brandished the arc in other contexts, including his remarks with Chinese President Hu Jintao last July, when it was “the arc of history that led to a wall coming down in Berlin” (gee, some of us thought it wasn’t an ”arc,” but a combination of Ronald Reagan standing up to the Soviets, and Germans wielding sledgehammers).
Anyway, whether it is an arc or an arch that Obama had in mind when his human rights advisor spoke up this week, it’s time to give it a rest. It’s not the long arc/arch of history that protects and engenders freedom — it is the hard work, wisdom and courage of individuals, of which there has been precious little on display in the Oval Office this past year. Enough with the arc, already.