Saturday, June 20, 2009

Where is Obama? (On Iran, the world is watching, and waiting)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Roger Cohen: "City of Whispers."

I have thus far praised Obama's cautious handling of the Iranian election and its aftermath. It is essential, given Iran's deep reservoir of nationalism, and given the regime's history of linking its internal opponents to America, the Great Satan, that the U.S. not interfere, and not be perceived to be interfering, directly.

It is also essential, however, that the U.S. stand firmly with the opposition, with the "liberals" and others who oppose the totalitarian Islamic regime and who wish to reach out to the West, with the courageous men and women who are saying NO to Khamenei and Ahmadinejad and YES to change.

The neocons -- Wolfowitz, Kagan, Krauthammer, et al. -- have it wrong. The situation is more nuanced than they know, or care to admit, and there is only so much that Obama can or ought to do. It is easy to condemn Iran (and Obama) from the comfort of neocon certainty, easy to call for more to be done, for a harder line to be taken. The situation is much more challenging for Obama, who must deal with reality, and who must walk a fine line if he is to show his support for the opposition while not undermining it, not feeding into the regime's oppression, not giving the regime the justification it is looking for to crack down even harder than it has already.

Still, I think Cohen is right: "In this city of whispers," Tehran, "one of the whispers now is: Where is Obama?" And there is more that Obama could do:

The president has been right to tread carefully, given poisonous American-Iranian history, but has erred on the side of caution. He sounds like a man rehearsing prepared lines rather than the leader of the free world. A stronger condemnation of the violence and repression is needed, despite Khamenei's warnings. Obama should also rectify his erroneous equating, from the U.S. national security perspective, of Ahmadinejad and Moussavi.

"The world is watching" Iran, as Obama put it to CBS's Harry Smith (in an interview that showed his formidable grasp of the complexity of the situation). But the world is watching Obama, too... and waiting.

And so are the Iranians, who, taking to the streets and risking their lives for freedom and democracy, need to see that America is with them.

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  • great comment! thanks for supporting the people in Iran. The fight for freedom is a common struggle - we all share it. Let's never forget that.

    By Anonymous veganswines, at 6:29 PM  

  • Woah! Sounds like our Reagan worshiping friend would feel right at home with the kind of Iranian 'theocratic democracy' he considers so vile.

    You suck-up-to-authority types see prophets (false or otherwise) capable of overthrowing foreign governments with a wave of the hand. Rational beings unwilling to submit to your gods incarnate see a mere elected politician who claims no divine powers and acts accordingly.

    Oh, and did you know Reagan is dead? Yep. No resurrection thus far, but feel free to hold your breath.

    By Anonymous beep52, at 9:31 PM  

  • It's hard to imagine anyone so deranged as to think there would be an indigenous pro-democracy in Iran if a President McPalin had bomb, bomb, bombed it?

    Oh wait -- there he is.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 10:25 AM  

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