Obama and the Iranian Election

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.

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6 Responses to “Obama and the Iranian Election”

  1. AdamF Says:

    Thanks for the editorial–I don’t feel educated enough on these issues to really have an opinion other than I think we should NOT be looking for ways to start wars, even when we don’t agree with what is happening.

    Romney is just a joke to me now, which I have mourned (as I once liked him a lot). I wonder what he and McCain and the rest think Obama should specifically do though.

  2. Pat Dekatt Says:


    you are correct in saying “I don’t feel educated enough on these issues to really have an opinion”

    Obama should have taken a stronger stand against Iran’s government, and for Obama to give some BS excuse that Iran’s government would twist his words… that is just sorry because they are going to twist his word anyway.

    The only message Obama gave the people of Iran as well as the rest of the world is “I really do not care much about liberty but I will kiss up to thug dictators who know how to oppress individuals and use community organizers to steal elections”

    Oh and check the latest polls out of Iran …. Their favorable rating of the US has been dropping since Obama has taken office

    • Liz Says:

      Oh Pat, thanks for the smile. I see your point, but I’d rather have a president who “kiss(es) up to thug dictators” than those who support the removal of democratically elected presidents for fear of “socialism” (say, in South America). How have Americans not learned the terrible consequences of meddling in other countries business?

  3. Frank Staheli Says:

    The pundits and the Republican elite seem to have no understanding whatsoever of the history of American meddling in Iran. If they did, they’d keep their pie holes shut. America has next to no moral capital vis a vis the Iranian government, not to mention its people. The Iranians may love what it means to be an American, but they are still smarting from our government having taken liberty from their grasp on two different occasions. It means a lot to the Iranians if the American people support them, but our government? That’s a whole different story. The Guardian Council and the Ayatollah are just waiting for some indication that the American government were supporting the protests. If that were to happen, there would be an unmitigated bloodbath.

  4. Forest Simmons Says:

    As a rule, our “humanitarian interventions” have been fiascos. We might have had more success if the motives of our leaders were more pure. But the pretext never matches the ulterior motive.

    Perhaps we should do what the Nephites did for the people of Ammon when they were being slaughtered by their own compatriots; they evacuated as many as wanted to go, and gave them asylum. It would be costly, but not as costly as the loss of human life that always accompanies our military adventures.

    Currently we only do this for the Cubans. And we give them extra incentive to come here by our efforts to make them miserable at home (by the embargo).

  5. Natalie K. Says:

    “Have they caught Obamania that much?”

    Ha! That line made me laugh outright.

    Personally I’m not ecstatic over the Obama administration thus far. But, I am really, really appreciative of how he talks to/about other nations. He has a respect for self-determination, and a fundamental pragmatism that prevents him from saying belligerent, foolish things for the sake of a principle. I wish his smart, intellectual style wasn’t so widely derided.

    Great analysis, Derek.

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