Let Me Count the Ways Why Obama Should at Last Speak Out ( —I write this at around noon on Saturday, and suspect the pressure of public outrage will soon get to Obama, and he soon will recant and start sounding Reaganesque)
(As in something like this:
“Hundreds of thousands of gallant Iranians are now engaged in a non-violent moral struggle against tyranny in Iran-one of the great examples of bravery in our times. All free peoples of the world watch their ordeal, and can only wish them success, while owing them a great deal of gratitude for risking their lives for the innate and shared notion of human freedom and dignity. We in the United States ask the government of Iran—as well as its military and security forces — to recognize the universal appeal of freedom that flourishes among its own remarkable people, to stand down and renounce its serial use of violence and coercion-and to ensure a truly free election where the voices of all can be at last fully heard, so that Iran can once more properly reenter the family of law-biding nations”.)
So why speak out louder? (Does not Obama see that the world has been given a rare chance, thanks to brave Iranians—as if the German people had risen up in 1938 in fear of what was on the horizon)
1) It is the moral and right thing to do to support the brave and idealistic (the Congressional Democrats mostly get this. And, after a week of embarrassment, the “I worship whoever runs the White House” pundits are not far behind and scrambling to retract and revise last week’s obsequious columns.). The dissidents in fact can win in this new age of private instant communications, in which global news is not predicated on elite correspondents and news desks editors, but can flow globally and instantaneously, unfiltered, with unforeseen consequences.)
2) The theocracy is a fiendish regime that hides behind third-world victimhood while it murders and promotes terror abroad. When it totters, the world sighs relief from Iraq to Lebanon; when it chest-thumps, thousands die at home and abroad.
3) Of the three ways to stop a nuclear theocracy-(regime change, preemption, embargo), supporting the opponents of the regime is the most logical, peaceful, and cost-effective-and has the best chance of success. (Ask the worried surrounding Arab frontline countries).
4) There is a long bipartisan American history of supporting dissidents who were fighting for election fairness abroad in Poland, Serbia, Latin America, and South Africa. (Does Obama think Mandela did not wish words of support from America? Why then would he think the Iranians being shot at in the streets would not wish moral clarity from the prophet of Cairo?). The Europeans (and even the Arab world) are way ahead of us.
5) Obama’s realpolitik is flawed: 1) if the mullahs win, they will have greater contempt for our timidity; 2) if the dissidents win, they will not forget our realistic fence-sitting; 3) you can never believe (ever) anything the mullahs say or do. Negotiating with them is like signing a pact with Hitler. They are afraid of US voiced support for the dissidents, not the dissidents themselves who ask for our solidarity. If anything, the theocrats grasp that their own do not want a nuclear confrontation with Israel in which the people would be sacrificial pawns. Again and again, the dissidents have repeated that they are tired of being hated in the world as Ahmadinejad’s Iranians, not that they wanted Obama’s America to be less critical of Ahmadinejad.
…. And Why He Has Not:
1) Our President has always been a trimmer-voting present serially in Illinois; proclaiming broad new positions on the campaign trail only to disown them while President; rhetorically always splitting the difference with ‘on the one hand, on the other’, ‘some, they, others say’, ‘I don’t accept false choices…’ etc. So now he waits to see who wins. And then will provide the soaring rhetoric postfacto to suggest that he was either the careful realist all along who foresaw the dissidents’ failure-or the enthusiastic moralist who always really did cheer on the mullahs’ demise. Robert Gibbs has both scripts already fed into the bookend A and B teleprompters.
2) It’s a personal thing that interferes with Obama’s ego, and messianic personal diplomacy. Obama himself is not comfortable with those abroad who emulate American values and seek to have the freedoms and rights we take for granted. The post-colonial industry mandates that the Other is a perpetual victim of colonialism, imperialism, capitalism, and racism with justified grievances. Only elite American intellectuals of singular insight and empathy understand the calculus of the oppressed, and so, through apologies, accommodations, and concessions, they alone on our behalf can deal with an Ahmadinejad, Chavez, Ortega, Castro, Morales, Nasrallah, etc. But when we see a purple-finger election, a statue of liberty at Tiananmen, or the current Levi-clad, cell-phoning, English-placard-carrying Iranian grassroots resistance, all the above is rendered null and void. Obama wants to rise above his country; but when his country is not held in disrepute (as is true among the Iranian people), he is an actor without a role.
People abroad really do prefer freedom and true constitutional government to autocratic grievance mongers who loot their country and brutalize the free. In such conditions, old-fashioned Americans, often inarticulate and perhaps clumsy, but honest in their belief in the universal appeal of human freedom, do better than all the nuanced Kennedy School intellectuals (e.g. They laughed at the reductionist “Tear Down This Wall” and “Evil Empire” and apparently preferred “No Inordinate Fear of Communism”). So a deer-in-the-headlights Obama wonders, ‘Wait, why aren’t they shouting the boilerplate ‘Death to America!’ and invoking, like I did, 1953 and the CIA crimes? Don’t they know the things that we did to them and I apologized for? Don’t they see that I am as separate from the US of the 1950s as they are? What’s this grass-roots rejection of an anti-Western, anti-colonialist indigenous Iranian government all about? (cf. his moral equivalent comparison of Mousavi to Ahmadinejad as equally anti-American).
3) Obama is clueless. Hillary knows more, but not that much more (Bill knows less as his 2005 Davos disastrous encomium of Iran proved). Biden, well, is Biden. The brighter like Holbrooke serve on the second tier. In short, no one knows now to whom do you apologize? And if to no one, what then do you do? We’re back to sorta, sorta not shoot the pirates, kinda, kinda not stop the Koreans, maybe, maybe not keep renditions, tribunals, wiretaps, intercepts, and drone attacks-or why didn’t someone brief me on the problems with closing Guantanamo before I promised the world at end to our American Gulag?
4) He’s addicted to the ossified Iraqi paradigm of “Bush intervened and caused a mess” (Free Iraq is apparently still equivalent to Saddam’s Iraq), so “I don’t want to follow his lead” (as if vocal support now is the same as shock and awe then). Somewhere in stone a lie is chiseled “Iraq made Iran stronger”. He doesn’t see the footnote: “But if Iraqi democracy survives, it fuels emulation in neighboring Iran and does more to undermine the theocracy than all the F-22s in the world”. Who knows-if Iranian freedom spreads, some nut might praise Bush’s commitment to Middle East freedom in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon, and not Obama’s apologetics at Cairo? (Free Shiites in Iraq are far better for Iran than either oppressed minorities under Saddam, or Saddam’s opportunistic dictatorship). Bottom line again: Obama needs to forget Ahmadinejad and talk daily with Maliki.
5) His entire anti-Bush foreign policy is then in trouble. We’ve heard for eight years a cheap slur of “neo-cons” did it, not that in the dangerous world abroad there are no good choices, but supporting freedom is usually the better alternative if one must choose. If a peaceful democratic revolution succeeds in Iran, then what happens with “outreach” to Putin, Chavez, and Hamas? The new liberal realpolitik insisted that we don’t offer moral judgment, and was framed instead by winning the hearts and minds of tyrants through humbling ourselves and meae culpae. But if these democracies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and an Iran (?) were to succeed, then what? You would not go to Chavez and promise first to talk about shared colonial racist oppression, but rather say to the Venezuelan people, “We stand with you in your struggle to achieve freedom and dignity and to join the other democracies of Latin America”? That is not just in the cards, and so Iran, is well, a monkey-wrench.
For now, watch the Iranian army and police. If one battalion bolts, then . . .