Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Little Obama That Could

Finally, Obama has realized the errors in his ways and has come out with criticism of Iran. (See the White House website for the transcript: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/The-Presidents-Opening-Remarks-on-Iran-with-Persian-Translation/). The majority of what he said was strong and appropriate.

He began with a strong criticism of the harsh, repressive actions the Iranian government has been taking to quell the growing revolution. He stated, “The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings, and imprisonments of the last few days. I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost.” This, of course, was the easy part. Any sane person should easily be appalled by the tyranny of the Iranian regime. However, given his track record thus far, Obama should be commended for speaking out.

Obama also correctly emphasized that Ahmadinejad’s attempted ploys at blaming the West for the reformist uprisings are subterfuge and an attempt to direct the Iranian energy to a supposed foreign foe. As mentioned in a prior post (See here: http://anewrepublican.blogspot.com/2009/06/iran-and-ahmadinejad-are-stumbling.html), this is a prime strategy that the Iranian despot could use to diminish reformist momentum. If successful, such a strategy would portray the revolution not as an internal movement, but as a foreign dictated coup attempt. Obama was right-on in stressing that this was not the case.

Obama also spoke to the Iranian people’s right to have their votes counted and voices heard. He criticized Iran’s oppression and correctly pointed out that repressive actions will stand on the wrong side of history. Unfortunately, Obama did not go far enough in criticizing the sham of an election. While he voiced opposition to Iran’s method of dealing with revolution and voiced support for the general notions of freedom and democracy, he was silent on the real-world issues that started the revolution.

Furthermore, Obama offered no concrete discussion on what can and should be done. While apparently somewhat folding under Republican pressure (and common sense), Obama still seems to be covering his bases by leaving open a path to cordial relations with the Iranian leadership. As expressed earlier, Obama should have made concrete statements regarding the wrongness of the electoral fraud and pushed for actions that would right these wrongs.

While he did not go far enough, at least he is headed in the right direction. Most likely this is because he realizing the error in his ways. Unfortunately, it has thus far been too little, too late. But with Obama baby-steps seem to be the way to go. It is not too late to salvage his Carter-esque foreign policy. Hopefully, he will wise up quickly.


  1. Josh--

    Time will tell as to the wisdom of Obama’s ways, but I must admit I was disappointed in his news conference yesterday. When pushed by the MSM as to whether negotiations will begin between the two countries, the president evaded the question several times. Even when he was questioned by Major Garrett of FOX News as to whether Iranian diplomats would still be welcome at American embassies for July 4 celebrations, he wouldn’t close the book on such invitations.

    I believe in exhausting diplomacy when it comes to Iran’s nuclear program, despite my grave doubts that such talks will stop them. Since the U.S. is in no position to invade another Middle East country, and there’s little reason to believe that Israeli airstrikes would end their ambitions a la 1981 Iraq, we might as well keep all options on the table.

    Having said that, the Obama administration must conclude by now that their “outstretched hand” has certainly met a “clenched fist.” To publicly shake hands with the leadership of Iran – as Medvedev did, disgustingly – is to grant them legitimacy in the eyes of the world and pardon the unspeakable actions of the past two weeks. If the U.S. wants to conduct nuclear talks through back channels, fine, but I can’t imagine a scenario in which myself and the rest of the world would stomach face-to-face talks with these lunatics and human-rights desecrators any time soon. (Interestingly, Nico Pitney of the Huffington Post, whom Obama was criticized for essentially planting during the presser, raised this question, one of the toughest of the afternoon.)

    Like all good card players, Obama should rightly keep his Iran cards close to the vest. But the President of the United States can make a small, harmless start by saying, unequivocally, that no members of Iran’s government are welcome at Fourth of July celebrations. Consequences? Maybe that would constitute a start.

    And as for “baby steps,” if we’ve learned anything about Obama over the past two years, it’s that he’s a cool, calculating leader. As was the case during the campaign, when he was pushed on all sides to up the rhetoric, he’s demonstrated a desire to lay in the weeds and survey situations before making uninformed statements. You say it’s not too late to salvage his foreign policy – yet Bush was still three months shy of having to formulate the beginnings of his foreign policy at this stage in his presidency. Again, we’re seeing a different set of standards for Barry set by the champions of Bush.


  2. Karl~

    It seems like you are coming around a bit. "But the President of the United States can make a small, harmless start by saying, unequivocally, that no members of Iran’s government are welcome at Fourth of July celebrations. Consequences? Maybe that would constitute a start." If I didn't read these words myself I would swear they came from Sean Hannity himself.

    I think you are right though. Medvedev was completely out of line. But that was as much a swipe at America, as Russia's own self-interested move.

    I also think it is right to attempt diplomatic options. I'm just not convinced that Obama agrees with you in regards to the Iranian proverbial 'clenched fist'. I think the cool and calculating nature that you describe runs a bit deeper. What scares me is that he will remain cool and calculating until Iran has crossed a too-far of a threshold and the Republicans take back the White House [or fail to find someone to lead the party].

    I think, what must be a typo on your part, is ironically, and unfortunately true. Obama tends to lay in the weeds...before making uninformed statements. He hasn't yet indicated he has any real grasp of foreign policy. His lone policy (semi-) success, at least in rhetoric, was the result of admitted Republican pressure. I don't know if there is any difference in standard as compared to Bush. I think Bush had a formulated policy, that was drastically changed come 9/11. Hopefully, it doesn't take another 9/11 to get Obama to develop a strong foreign policy. I don't have different standards- I applaud good policy and criticize bad.


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