17 June 2009 - Obama Is Missing a Historic Opportunity
The outcome of the democratic uprising in Iran is not yet certain--though without at least rhetorical support from the west, it is likely to be crushed.
This far, President Obama has failed to stand up for democracy. His first response indicated that he would continue his policy of "engagement" with a regime that had been wholly exposed as illegtimate. He also upheld the pretense that this election, absent vote-rigging; would have been valid. He this indcated that his administration understands neither the root of terror in the Middle East, nor the opportunity to defeat it that has arisen (and which may soon be lost). Even his revised response yesterday, which at least acknowledged that Mousavi was not the reformer that the U.S. administration has hitherto portrayed him to be, did not stand up for the people or principles at stake.
Iran is not only a nuclear threat--as belatedly admitted by Mohammed ElBaradei--but also a major sponsor of terror and tyranny through it's proxies, Hamas and Hizbollah. If the regime could be toppled, not only could nuclear war be averted, but terror against Israel couod effectively be stopped. It was never possible or desirable to pursue regime change through an external, aggressive military strategy. But it was possible to use pressure from without to encourage change from within. That moment of change has now arrived, earlier than many expected--perhaps driven by economic conditions, perhaps driven by social frustration, perhaps encouraged by the knowledge that Israel was preparing to strike or that the U.S. would remain in Iraq and Afghanistan after all or even by Obama's own inspiring election and rhetoric.
The point is that the U.S. has the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, through strong words that suggest the potential for strong action. (If ever there was a time for "tough diplomacy," it is now.) The revelation in today's Jerusalem Post that Iran is using Hamas thugs to attack pro-democracy demonstrators is proof not only of the weakness of the regime (since Iranian soldiers are becoming reluctant to repress their fellow citizens) but also the depravity of the would-be Palestinian rulers. We could defeat both threats, and protect our allies and interests for generations, without firing a shot, if we simply stood up for our values.
But Obama--like Thabo Mbeki on Zimbabwe, whose "Zimbabwe must solve its own problems" approach doomed that country's future--refuses to stand up for human rights and democracy, preferring the false comforts of stability and "talks." He has made engagement an end in itself, proving John McCain's charge that Obama did not know the difference between tactics and strategy. We may yet see freedom winin Iran. If not, we will long regret Obama's failure.
Note: I apologize for any typos or rushed language; I had to compose this entry by iPhone.