Last Friday, President Obama praised the elections in Iran for the “vigorous debate” taking place. At the time of this writing, he’s had far less to say about the vigorous beatings taking place in Tehran, where the batons are falling on those who dared think their vote mattered.
The Iranian government is jamming the broadcasting signal of the BBC and has shut down the offices of Al-Arabiya television, preventing the Iranian people from learning what is happening around them. They are forced instead to rely on the deception and dishonesty of the media aligned with the government, virtually every outlet announcing the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. That hasn’t stopped tens of thousands of Iranians from rallying around their candidate, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, despite that gathering being banned by the Iranian Interior Ministry. Unfortunately, there are now reports of Ahmadinejad’s thugs reportedly killing more than a dozen of the protesters.
Ahmadinejad, responding to his fellow countrymen, has said that his country must be “purified” of the opposition.
He has proclaimed that their only option is “surrender.” This is dangerous language, and we only need to look at the history of the 20th century to remind us of the evil that can take place when good people do nothing. Meanwhile, Obama has said nothing since Friday, when he made his ill-timed mention of the “vigorous debate” taking place before the election. To the people who believed that debate meant something, he has offered nothing. No statement in support of democracy, no statement condemning — in even the most milquetoast of language — the brutal crackdown and suppression of political speech.
It may be that President Obama believes diplomacy requires a nimble touch and careful words, but never should diplomacy take a back seat to democracy. Never should diplomacy take its cues from a despot. Never should our Republic bend to tyranny.
Does Obama still maintain that a conversation with Ahmadinejad would produce any tangible benefit to our people? The “president” of Iran has shown that he cannot be trusted with the safety and well-being of Iranians. Why then should we expect that he is to be trusted when it comes to our own safety and security?
We should not, nor should we expect that if for some reason Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei acquiesces to the demands of the Iranian voters who cast their lot with Mousavi, Iran will become a more reasonable country to deal with. The events of the last few days have shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that the rulers of Iran have their own agenda.
If they are willing to subject their own citizens to the truncheon and the trigger, what are they willing to do to the nations they have declared their enemies?
We elected a man who was supposed to restore our place in the world, but that place is not on bended knee. Good intentions and eloquent phrases mean nothing to men who keep the majority of the population in its place with violence and intimidation. There may be peace as long as we remain mute in the face of the growing threat, but it is a false peace, an Indian summer of goodwill that our enemies will use to their advantage. If Obama’s diplomacy buys us an additional two or three years of peace, to what end will we use that time? Will we use it to prepare ourselves for conflict with those nations that threaten to destroy us? At the moment, our government is instead choosing to squander the time we have so dearly purchased at the expense of our reputation. Our enemies are arming themselves, while we are cutting our defense budget. The shortsightedness on display in Washington is made even more inexcusable by the fact there are still thousands of men alive who remember what it was like to have to fight a war in which their army was woefully unprepared — thanks to the appeasers and disarmament advocates who ran their government. We cannot afford to let history repeat itself.
In 1934, Winston Churchill had been warning the world of the dangers of Nazism for two long years. England was still sleeping. He said, in a broadcast from London that November:
Only a few hours away by air there dwells a nation of nearly seventy million of the most educated, industrious, scientific, disciplined people in the world, who are being taught from childhood to think of war and conquest as a glorious exercise, and death in battle as the noblest fate for man. There is a nation which has abandoned all its liberties in order to augment its collective might. There is a nation which, with all its strength and virtues, is in the grip of a group of ruthless men preaching a gospel of intolerance and racial pride, unrestrained by law, by Parliament or by public opinion. … They are rearming with the utmost speed, and ready to their hands is this new lamentable weapon … before which women and children, the weak and frail, the pacifist and the jingo, the warrior and the civilian, the front line trenches and the cottage home, lie in equal and impartial peril.
England slept, and now it is America that is snoring. Churchill believed that, if contained by the world powers before his military forces grew too large, Hitler could have been defeated without the enormous loss of life that characterized the Second World War. It was the weakness of the League of Nations, the inability of that bloated and bureaucratic body to enforce its own charter that enabled the evil Nazi empire to grow unchecked.
President Obama should not go to Tehran under the guise of representing the world. Instead, he should represent the United States before the world at the United Nations. He should pull no punches, nor paint a rosy picture of an unrealistic future. It may be that he will find a chilly reception greeting him, but that should not cause us to falter. It may be we stand alone, or with precious few allies. It won’t be the first time that has happened. It may not be the last, but our devotion to democracy, our love of liberty, and the defense of our shores and cities has never relied on the blessings of the world. We stand ready to ally ourselves with all who believe in self-determination, but can no longer allow our enemies to remain unchecked. If our international body of nations is just as weak and wasted as the League of Nations was in the 1930s, far better for us to learn that now than after one of our cities has been turned to dust.