Archive for June, 2009

Obama and the Iranian Election

June 26, 2009

Obama has been getting quite a bit of flack for the way he has handled the recent Iranian election fiasco. From the inflammatory neocon pundits like Limbaugh, Hannity, and Coulter, to the Republican politicians like Dana Rohrabacher, Richard Perle, Mitt Romney, Lindsey Graham, Charles Grassley, and John McCain are angry that Obama has not been more aggressive in responding to the Iranian tragedy. Even hawkish Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden think that the president should be more forceful in his reaction.

Why? What purpose would it serve? No one has directly suggested military intervention, or even new economic sanctions. They simply seem to want the President to be more forceful in condemning the election results and the government crackdown, or in expressing support for the dissidents. Do these people think that simply by uttering his disapproval, Obama can undo the election? “If Obama would only disapprovingly shake his finger at them, they’d learn they’re lesson!” Have they caught Obamania that much?

While it is extremely unlikely to help the situation, stern words could make things worse. As Obama himself mentioned in his recent press conference, Iran’s government would have no hesitation to play up any US rhetoric for the extremist crowd which is their base. Worse, saber rattling by its very nature implies the potential for drawing that saber. Such a stance might well escalate and draw the nation into yet another Middle Eastern military fiasco. Yet if he refused to back his words with deeds, Obama would look weak and ineffectual.

(I suppose this might well be the strategy of the neocons attempting to goad Obama into a more belligerent stance; either they get the further interventionism they desire in order to create their “New American Century,” or they get the president to make himself look weak.)

In 1991, fresh of his victory in the first Gulf War, President H.W. Bush heartily endorsed dissident factions in Iraq and encouraged the overthrow of the Hussein regime. Emboldened by the implied support of the US, the Kurds and Shia began a revolt. The military support which they assumed backed Bush’s words never came. The revolt failed, and the dissidents were slaughtered.

Is it worth the risk of seeing the same thing in Iran just to satisfy the egos of those who want to see the US play John Wayne?

My thoughts, wishes, and prayers are with these brave Iranian protesters who are fighting for a nation which respects the will of the people and individual rights. I’m inspired, as I’ve been by the “Tank Man” and others at Tiananmen Square, by their courage and determination. But I am no less suspicious of the path of interventionism in Iran than I’ve been in Iraq, Afghanistan, or any other nation. We can not hope to impose democracy from without. We have not the capacity, especially now. Nor is it the role of the US to play nanny to the rest of the world. Obama has made essentially the right decision in this situation. Let’s hope that Obama is able to continue to ignore the taunting of the militarists, and that the Iranians are able to find the power within themselves to liberate themselves.