June 23, 2009
One of the recurring themes during the 2008 presidential campaign was the frequency with which Barack Obama changed his policy positions for the sake of political expedience. It was one reality check after another, and so it is with his presidency. With regard to the upheaval in Iran, Obama initially reacted very cautiously, but today for the first time he started to use strong language toward the Tehran regime. Why the switch? Well, today's News Leader editorial applauded Obama for not overreacting, which is well and good, but in the comment section, I took mild exception to their criticism of Republican leaders:
I agree that Obama's restraint is appropriate for the situation, because any hint of U.S. intervention would play in to the hands of the tyrannical mullahs, who thrive on inciting hatred of the "infidels." There is very little we can do, unfortunately. As Sen. McCain and other Republican critics rightly point out, however, Obama's policy of currying favor with Islamic autocracies is very discouraging to the reformist forces in Iran who want more freedom. His attitude of indifference to freedom is well known, and it would seem insincere if he started talking about promoting peace through democracy, as Bush II did. Indeed, today's speech in which Obama chastised the Iranian government for its brutal crackdown makes it look like he was caving in to pressure from the Republicans. He tried to deny it, but he couldn't stop from grinning. Foreign policy never was a priority for Obama, and because of his weak stance, he will have a very difficult time exerting diplomatic leverage.
Right after the (bogus) election results were announced, before the protest movement got going, Daniel Drezner wrote that a continuance of the status quo (the theocratic regime) in Iran "might actually be the best possible outcome for the Obama administration." Why? Because Iran's regional influence is waning anyway, because the discrediting of the Iranian regime will make Obama's fondness for multilateral diplomacy easier, and because if Mousavi had won, it would make it harder for the U.S. to rally international support for containing Iran's nuclear ambitions. (As I wrote last week, even the reformist "moderates" in Iran are in favor of pursuing great power status.)
If there is a real grassroots revolution in Iran, it will be propelled to a large extent by Western technology: cell phones, Twitter, and of course YouTube: "Riot police caught by crowd - Protests in Tehran after election."
And speaking of YouTube, listen to a Bob Basso, author of "Common Sense," playing the role of Thomas Paine to rouse complacent, lazy Americans into action before their freedoms are lost forever. Watch "We The People Stimulus Package"; hat tip to Stacey Morris. "Wouldn't it be nice..."
Former News Leader editor Dennis Neal asked me to correct a misleading statement that I made on April 4, and I am happy to oblige. So, just for the record, the controversial characterization of the "SWAC" leaders as "snakes" was not his idea, and he did not leave his job with the News Leader because of the boycott waged against the local paper by those "grassroots" activists. My apologies to Dennis for interpreting the situation wrongly, and for taking my sweet time in making the correction.
Jose Rodriguez, a long-time visitor to this blog, informs me that -- contrary to what I wrote on June 9 -- Terry McAuliffe does not have a Chicago accent. I could have sworn that accent came straight out of the Windy City, or some place very close to it, but Jose tells me that the McAuliffe is actually from upstate New York. It seems that those exaggerated vowel sounds are a speech characteristic of several states in the Great Lakes region. I stand corrected!