Monday, June 15, 2009

And I-ran...I-ran so far away...

I trust (hope?) many of you are paying attention to the ongoing events in the aftermath of the Iranian election. If not, or if you don't really give a damn about important world events, don't worry, I'll be reviewing John Travolta as a talking dog in "Bolt" in an upcoming post (preview: seven barks).

One of the more complicated issues developing with regards to the contested election is the question of what exactly should the role of the United States be, if any, in dealing with the situation. President Obama finally spoke on the issue a few hours ago, giving a measured and thoughtful response which I think strikes the right notes. I'll embed the video below, but the key points are as follows:

1) The United States and the rest of the world is watching.

2) The United States is not going to mess around in the affairs of Iranians.

3) The United States believes in the right of peaceful demonstration.

4) The United States accepts, for now, that the election results will be investigated.

That sounds about right me to me. God knows I love Andrew Sullivan, and he's been working overtime at The Atlantic to cover this election---before, during and after (to his immense credit)---but there's still so much we don't know about what happened (and is still happening) that it's far too premature for any sort of definitive statement. Sullivan is practically championing a full-blown revolution on his blog. Indeed, even all of The Atlantic has changed their color in solidarity. Sullivan, however, is a blogger. He can tilt away all he wants. He recognizes this difference which is why he's agreed with the President's actions (inaction?) so far. The truth is, even if the election results are corrupt, as seems likely, American intervention would be widely viewed by the Arab world as a further extension of the policies of George W. Bush---a father knows best form of paternalism that may have its heart in the right place, but its head firmly stuck up its ass.

And what exactly would those advocating a different response suggest we do? Bill Kristol had a telling post at The Weekly Standard today. Ostensibly he's playing the role of "good guy" by urging his fellow Republicans to not root for Obama to fail on this oh-so-important foreign policy matter:

"The United States may be able to play an important role. The task now is to explain what the Obama administration (and Congress) should be saying and doing, and to urge them to do what they should be doing. Presuming ahead of time that Obama will fail to exercise leadership, and cataloguing this episode pre-emptively as another in a list of Obama failures, would be a mistake."

Even taking Kristol's words at face value, and I somewhat do, not ONCE in his entire blog does he suggest WHAT it is that Obama should be "saying and doing," arguably the only time Kristol has not had an absolute position on what should be done. He continues:

"We should hope Obama does the right thing, and urge and pressure him to do so--because then the United States will be doing the right thing, and the United States, and the world, will benefit."

Kristol strings these words together as though it's some great though wanting our President to succeed is a new and ingenious way of helping our country. if we help our President to do good things...and then good things happen...this is good for us! Brilliant! But more to the point, WHAT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO? He doesn't say. He doesn't care to say. It's easier to say "do the right thing" and then co-opt success when the right thing is done than to offer an opinion which could be wrong. After all, if the right thing isn't done, then it's just another foreign policy failure by Obama. If Obama succeeds, Kristol is the reasonable Republican who told other Republicans to help. If Obama fails, it's because he didn't listen to Republicans (even if he did, of course).

Perhaps Kristol's response to Obama's mini-speech will clarify his own position, and I certainly am anxious to hear it, but if it's for Obama to come out with authority and condemn the Iranian election as a total fraud, then Kristol will be wrong. Quite frankly, it's everyone's job BUT the President's to call the Iranian election a fraud. The President has to act a little less like a cowboy and a little more like a reasonable diplomat. Plus, let us not forget that our own country had an election eight years ago which is widely viewed overseas (and still by many here) as being a fraudulent result.

What's the expression about stones and glass houses?


Blogger Spender said...

I have been absolutely riveted by Sullivan's work and the job that Nico Pitney is doing on the Huffington Post.
I believe that the administration is doing exactly the right thing at this time and while it breaks my heart to see footage of the Iranian people being mauled by various police and military factions, I know that we must not be seen as interfering in Iranian politics.
Excellent post, sir.

June 15, 2009 at 10:42 PM  
Blogger Kraig Smith said...

Thanks, Spender. And, as expected, the neocons were not happy with Obama's restraint...taking him to task for only being "deeply troubled," as though a full rebuke with harsh words would have any positive benefit whatsoever. It was so predictable. Had he been harsh, they would have said he overreacted. Amazing.

Thanks for reading!

June 16, 2009 at 3:30 PM  
Blogger Jamal said...

Daily, the republicans are demonstrating why we are so much better off having them on the sidelines. Their ignorance on Middle Eastern affairs generally is stunning, and in Iran in particularly even more so. The 1953 coup in which we were so involved is a fresh wound there. Talked about regularly. The USA is the most effective strawmen for Khomeni to control dissent. From what we can tell from the sparse information coming from the ground is that the people are happy with Obama's response. He gets it. His comments clearly indicate his support, without enough specificity to constitute meddling. And it should be noted that his election and his Cairo speech helped embolden this response. It's just right. And it's too early to start cementing our foreign policy position. Too much at stake and too complicated.

June 18, 2009 at 4:05 PM  

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